With training camps well underway, there are plenty of interesting battles for roster spots throughout the league. One of the more intriguing ones is happening in Arizona as the Coyotes now find themselves with a plethora of defensemen battling for a spot on their back end. Here’s a closer look at their blueline battle.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson – He is undoubtedly their number one defenseman and will be used in all situations. He’s also on a cap friendly deal for a top rearguard coming in with an AAV of just $5.5MM for the next three years.
Alex Goligoski – New GM John Chayka wasted little time with the former Dallas Star. He acquired his negotiating rights and quickly inked him to a five year, $27.375MM contract to be another anchor for their back end.
Connor Murphy – The former first rounder has seen his ice time increase each season and he surpassed the 20 minute average last year. He also signed a long-term deal this offseason, getting an average of $3.85MM over the next six years.
Zbynek Michalek – After rejoining the Coyotes last offseason, Michalek spent most of the year in a third pairing role, one he’s likely to reprise this season. While he could potentially be deemed expendable, he carries a cap hit of $3.2MM which may be difficult to unload in the current market and it’s unlikely that they would bury his contract in the minors given their status as a low-budget team.
Luke Schenn – Chayka brought the 26 year old in on a two year deal this offseason with a decent value at $1.25MM per year. While he projects as a third pairing player, it’s unlikely he’s going to get pushed off the roster so quickly after signing with the team.
Michael Stone – Stone had a career year last season and spent a lot of time on Arizona’s top pairing. While he may not have as big of a role this year, he’s a sure fire bet to start in their top four.
That’s six blueliners that are pretty much locks to start the season with the Coyotes, leaving them one or two (at most) spots to fill from a group of six other defensemen who could conceivably make a run at one of those positions.
Kevin Connauton – The Coyotes brought him in last season via the waiver wire and gave him a two year, one-way deal worth $1MM per year back in July. Connauton should be considered a potential favorite for a spot and his deal is cheap enough that he may not make it through waivers if they try to send him down when he returns from his knee injury.
Jakob Chychrun – The Coyotes traded up in the first round to secure Chychrun back in June. He has been billed as a player who has the physical stature to be able to play in the NHL right away although with the depth they have, he would have to really impress in game to earn a spot.
Klas Dahlbeck – Last season was Dahlbeck’s first full NHL campaign and he held his own as their sixth defender while bringing a needed physical presence to the table. If he doesn’t earn the seventh (or potentially eighth) spot in camp, there’s a chance he’d get plucked off of waivers.
Anthony DeAngelo – Arizona brought in the offensive-minded defender back at the draft. He has just one pro season under his belt so more time in the minors certainly wouldn’t be a bad thing (and he is exempt from having to be waived off the roster) but if the team is looking for more offense from their back end, he could force his way into the discussion.
Jamie McBain – McBain spent most of last year as a reserve defender for the Kings and has well over 300 games under his belt. As an experienced right shot defender (which are harder to find than those on the left side), he may garner some interest from other general managers looking to add depth if he fails to crack Arizona’s roster.
Jarred Tinordi – Last year, the Canadiens were afraid they’d lose Tinordi for nothing on waivers so they eventually flipped him to Arizona as a part of a three-way trade most remembered for its inclusion of John Scott. If he can’t lock down a spot in camp, he may get his first exposure to the waiver wire. Though he has struggled so far in his career, he is 6’6 and a former first round pick which could garner some interest.
Of the 12 players on this list, 10 were either acquired or signed new contracts this offseason so it’s clear that Chayka has put a lot of time and resources into reshaping Arizona’s defense corps. The team now has plenty of depth to work with – potentially too much even. If they have concerns about losing one or two of their extras on waivers, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the team try to work out a trade in the coming weeks to get something for that player rather than risk losing him for nothing.