With Arizona sitting dead last in the standings league-wide, it would be reasonable to think that GM John Chayka may be looking to shake things up. However, he told Craig Morgan of Arizona Sports that this isn’t likely to be the case:
“I’ve had numerous discussions on a lot of different players. If there’s a chance to make our team better I’ll do it, but in the past there was a lot of need for guys to get a fresh start or to infuse youth. There were some underlying changes we were trying to make. I don’t think that’s the case any longer.
“I think the core players are in place and they need some time and some experience surrounded by the right players. We’ve got some pieces in place that we like. Now, we’re just seeing if there are some things we can tweak to try and improve. There is nothing underlying that I think needs a significant change.”
While the Coyotes may inevitably need more than tweaks, Chayka may also prefer to wait until the offseason to make his more significant changes. That was the case over the summer when he added center Derek Stepan and defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson in a pair of significant draft day deals. His statement should also pour more cold water over the notion of moving defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, an idea that continues to linger despite Chayka dismissing the idea earlier this season.
One player that Arizona will have to make a decision on soon is goaltender Antti Raanta. The pending unrestricted free agent could be one of the more prominent goalies to move in the next month but that’s only if they’re unable to agree on a contract extension. Chayka stated in an interview with Arizona Sports (audio link) that they are going to start having conversations soon regarding a new deal but that he doesn’t believe there is any urgency to get something done. Raanta is making just $1MM and will undoubtedly be seeking a much larger salary on his next contract.
Beyond their Finnish netminder, the Coyotes have a handful of other unrestricted free agents but they would be more depth acquisitions for contending teams and not ones that will add to or change Arizona’s core. Among those is center Brad Richardson who, despite being classified as week-to-week back on January 25th due to an upper-body injury, skated with the team yesterday and could be ready to play on Thursday night against Dallas.