Coyotes re-sign defenceman Morris, sign left-winger Whitney, lose Michalek

GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Phoenix Coyotes have re-signed defenceman Derek Morris and signed left-winger Ray Whitney but lost standout defenceman Zbynek Michalek to a lucrative deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Coyotes acquired Morris from the Boston Bruins in one of a flurry of deals by Phoenix at the March 4 trade deadline. The 31-year-old defenceman had played for Phoenix for five seasons before being traded to the New York Rangers in 2009. He was-re-signed to a four-year deal.

On the first day that free agents could sign with teams, Whitney, 38, was brought in on a two-year contract to bolster Phoenix’s sometimes sputtering offence.

He had 21 goals and 37 assists with the Carolina Hurricanes last season. Whitney is an 18-year NHL veteran who had nine goals and six assists in Carolina’s post-season run to the Stanley Cup championship in 2005-06.

The Coyotes, still owned by the NHL, have a restricted budget and knew they would have a hard time keeping Michalek, who signed a US$20-million, five-year contract with the Penguins. Michalek made $1.5 million with Phoenix last season.

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The team also announced it had bought out the contract of centre Petteri Nokelainen, who was acquired from the Anaheim Ducks, also on March 4.

Morris was acquired to add experience and leadership in the team’s run to the playoffs. He had a goal and three assists in the Coyotes’ seven playoff games. Morris has played in 869 NHL games with five teams.

Michalek, 27, spent five seasons with the Coyotes and was a big part of Phoenix’s strong defence. He came to the Coyotes in a trade with Minnesota in August 2005 and led the NHL in blocked shots in 2008-09. He played for the Czech Republic in the Vancouver Olympics.