The Arizona Coyotes missed out on the postseason this year by a mere four points. While a success overall for the rebuilding club, the Coyotes struggled greatly on offense. The team’s 209 goals for were tied for third-worst in the NHL and their 16.3% power play success rate was sixth-worst. Behind stellar goaltending from Darcy Kuemper and strong team defense, the team largely got the job done, but they need to improve their scoring if they want to take the next step.
It’s thus no surprise that both Richard Morin of Arizona Republic and Craig Morgan of The Athletic write that Arizona will be looking to add a prominent scoring forward this summer. GM John Chayka would seem to agree:
I think to understand what we need to do to improve is pretty simple: We need to score more goals. I think anytime someone’s going through and trying to diagnose what you need to do to take that next step, that’s not the complicated part or complex part. I think what we need to understand and work through is, how do we score more goals? How do we create more offense, while maintaining that fundamental foundation of being a good stingy, defensive team.
Among the top options – albeit unlikely – for the Coyotes on the free agent market would be Columbus Blue Jackets stars Artemi Panarin and Matt Duchene, Buffalo Sabres’ standout Jeff Skinner, or any of the New York Islanders’ trio of Anders Lee, Jordan Eberle, and Brock Nelson. All of these forwards are prime talents, but may not be available to Arizona. Both Skinner and Lee are expected to re-sign with their current teams, as could Eberle or Nelson, while Panarin and Duchene are likely outside the Coyotes’ price range. More accessible free agent scorers could include Ryan Dzingel, Gustav Nyquist, Wayne Simmonds, or Brett Connolly, one or two of which would be a major boost to Arizona’s offense.
Morgan also adds that several cap-strapped teams could be forced to move talented forwards, leaving the Coyotes in places to scoop up valuable players at a discount. The Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets, and Tampa Bay Lightning are all in a tough spot, leaving the likes of Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, William Nylander, Nikolaj Ehlers, Mathieu Perreault, Ondrej Palat, J.T. Miller, or Alex Killorn possibly up for grabs.
Either by signing or trade, the Coyotes are likely to add a prominent forward or two and are expected to target wingers rather than centers. Arizona will be a team to watch this off-season as they target several of the aforementioned top names.