The Coyotes suffered a major blow Thursday when goaltending coach Benoit Allaire accepted an assistant coaching position with the New York Rangers under head coach Tom Renney.
Allaire, who signed a three-year deal for an undisclosed increase in salary, also will oversee the development of the organization's goalies.
“It's a new challenge for me," he said from his home near Montreal. “To become an assistant coach and, at the same time, act as a goaltending coach I think is the next step for me in my career."
Allaire has few ties to the Rangers, but New York general manager Glen Sather was impressed enough by his credentials to call Coyotes general manager Mike Barnett and inquire about Allaire's availability.
The Rangers, who also hired former Ottawa assistant Perry Pearn, are coming off their seventh straight losing campaign, in which they ranked 27th out of 30 teams with a 3.01 goals-against average last season. Allaire still had one year left on his contract with Phoenix, but Barnett said that was never an issue.
“We will not stand in the way of people advancing their careers," Barnett said in a statement. “We thank Benoit for his time and contributions to our
Allaire's loss will be felt throughout the Coyotes' organization. The St. Janvier, Quebec, native was the architect behind the two greatest goalies (Nikolai Khabibulin and Sean Burke) in Winnipeg/Phoenix franchise history, turning both into stars with his trademark philosophy of playing deeper in the crease to maintain the best possible positioning at all times.
Allaire joined the Coyotes in 1997 after serving in the same position with the Montreal Canadiens. Under his tutelage, Khabibulin's goals-against average dropped from 3.13 in 1995-96 to 2.13 in 1998-99, his last season in Phoenix.
Allaire's impact on Burke was even more pronounced. Left for dead after difficult stints in Carolina, Vancouver, Philadelphia and Florida, Burke revived his career during the 2000-2001 season, posting a 2.27 goals- against average and a .922 save percentage while leading the Coyotes to an unexpected playoff berth. That same season he was an All-Star, a finalist for the Vezina Trophy and the Lester B. Pearson Award and finished fourth in MVP voting.
“He's like a miracle-worker," said Burke of Allaire in November of 2000. “When I was in Florida (before a November 1999 trade to Phoenix), I would have said that being a top-five goalie in this league was pretty unrealistic, given where my game was.”
Allaire said he is excited about moving closer to his home, working with an Original Six franchise and overseeing the development of goalies such as Mike Dunham, Dan Blackburn and Al Montoya.
“At the same time I made a lot of great friends in Phoenix and the Coyotes were so good to me," he said. “I will miss Phoenix."
LOOSE PUCK: As expected, eligible forwards Ladislav Nagy and Daymond Langkow filed for salary arbitration Thursday. The Coyotes expect to set a date for those hearings in the next couple of days. Salary arbitration hearings will be held Aug. 1-15.