The 2015-16 Arizona Coyotes were better than many expected them to be, finishing fourth in the Pacific Division. That said, they did have a losing record and feasted on lowly division rivals Edmonton and Calgary, going a combined 8-1-1 against the two Alberta teams. The team is built around superstar defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, with Max Domi, Anthony Duclair, Christian Dvorak, and Dylan Strome representing a deep prospect pool up front. Wily veteran and captain Shane Doan scored 28 goals at age 39. Ekman-Larsson lead the team with 21 goals and 55 points (7th among defensemen).
The Coyotes have already made a few waves this summer, hiring a 27-year old rookie GM John Chayka. Chayka has already made his first trade, acquiring the rights to pending UFA defenceman, Alex Goligoski. There have also been rumors that the Coyotes have made a big trade offer to the Maple Leafs so they can draft Scottsdale, AZ native Auston Matthews first overall. Chayka has since denied the rumor, which had the Coyotes’ two first round picks (7th and 20th) going to Toronto with one of Domi or Dvorak for the first selection, calling it “ridiculous speculation”.
Cap space: $38.5MM, 13 players under contract.
Key RFAs: D Connor Murphy, W Tobias Rieder, D Michael Stone – Murphy and Stone have developed nicely into capable NHL defensemen, and will be qualified. Rieder scored 37 points in his sophomore season, and should be a solid middle-6 option up front for the Coyotes.
Key UFAs: Doan and Goligoski – the team’s captain and longest serving member (he was a member of the original Winnipeg Jets) is expected to re-sign with the team for one season at a time. ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reported the recently acquired Goligoski and his wife are visiting Arizona this week to check out the city and meet with team officials.
Outlook: The Coyotes have just $34.4MM committed to next year’s roster, which is $40MM less than the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins, have. According to Sportsnet’s Luke Fox, the Coyotes don’t plan on re-signing any pending UFAs other than Doan and Goligoski, so new GM Chayka will have plenty of money to spend rounding out their roster.
As well, big C Martin Hanzal is entering a contract year and will need to be extended or traded. Fox reported Chayka as being open to all options regarding the Czech centre.
Look for them to draft one of the high-end defence prospects at 7th overall, or attempt to move up and snag Scottsdale-native Matthew Tkachuk.