As we enter the middle of March, the trade deadline is inching closer. Where does each team stand and what moves should they be looking to make? We continue our look around the league with the Arizona Coyotes.
Bill Armstrong has been general manager of the Coyotes for one year, five months, and 22 days. In that time, he has already made 15 trades, changing the look of his roster dramatically. Derek Stepan, Adin Hill, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Conor Garland, Darcy Kuemper, Christian Dvorak, Ryan Dzingel, Ilya Lyubushkin–all out. Andrew Ladd, Shayne Gostisbehere, Loui Eriksson, Antoine Roussel, Jay Beagle, Anton Stralman, Nick Ritchie–all in. It’s easy to spot the way that Armstrong is approaching his full-scale rebuild, by sending out anyone that carries value, and bringing back contracts that teams don’t want. It’ll be the exact same strategy at this deadline, which opens up a whole number of possibilities for the suddenly-hot Coyotes.
18-35-4, 8th in the Central
Deadline Cap Space
$26.02MM today, $32.53MM in full-season space by the deadline, 2/3 retention slots used, 44/50 contracts used per CapFriendly
Upcoming Draft Picks
2022: ARI 1st, MON/CAR 1st*, COL 1st^, ARI 2nd, NYI 2nd, PHI 2nd, SJS 2nd, VAN 2nd, ARI 3rd, ARI 4th, ARI 5th, ARI 6th
2023: ARI 1st, ARI 2nd, ARI 3rd, NYI 3rd**, ARI 4th, ARI 5th, ARI 6th, VAN 7th
*As per the terms of the offseason Dvorak trade, Montreal will give Arizona the better of Montreal/Carolina’s first-round picks, unless either or both are inside the top-10, in which case Montreal will receive the better of the two picks.
^If Colorado’s pick is in the top-10, the Avalanche will send their 2023 pick instead.
**Pick not transferred if Ladd plays in any professional games in 2022-23 while under his current contract, or retires prior to the conclusion of the 2022-23 regular season.
If the Coyotes wanted to, they have the draft capital to acquire just about any player on the market. Their three first-round picks and five second-round picks will make them a frequent flyer to the podium in Montreal this summer, adding a huge amount of talent to the prospect pool. Giving up those draft picks at this point isn’t the strategy though, as Arizona is still in tear-down mode wherever possible.
No one represents that strategy more than Jakob Chychrun, who has been on the market all season despite being just 23 and under a relatively inexpensive contract for another three years. If the Coyotes are willing to trade Chychrun, they’re not even considering a quick rebuild with the assets they’ve already acquired. Among those things they could move at the deadline, the young defenseman is obviously the most attractive and could bring back a package that includes multiple high-end assets. Still, they likely will be targeting prospects that still have years left on their entry-level contracts (or perhaps those who haven’t even signed yet) instead of struggling first-round picks that are already around Chychrun’s age, meaning this is a hard trade for many teams in the league to actually accomplish. If he is moved before the deadline, it will be a blockbuster deal.
Beyond Chychrun there is still lots left on the Coyotes’ roster that could be of interest. Phil Kessel, finally in the last season of that eight-year, $64MM contract signed with Toronto in 2013, is a potential target for teams looking to upgrade their second or third line. Whatever you think of Kessel, he’s still an incredibly dangerous forward off the rush and has 78 points in 113 games since the beginning of last season, while playing on a bad Coyotes team. Kessel’s contract already has some salary retention from when the Maple Leafs traded it, meaning it couldn’t go through the double-retention that some other big names will this spring. A single contract can only be retained on twice, meaning the lowest his cap hit can go from this point is $3.4MM.
Speaking of salary retention, that would normally be a perfect option for the Coyotes, but they’ve already used two of their three slots. They’ll have to be quite picky about where that last one is used at the deadline in order to maximize the return. Gostisbehere, for instance, could be an option after he has rediscovered his game in the desert. The 28-year-old defenseman cost Philadelphia two draft picks to get rid of in the summer, but after 36 points in 57 games perhaps there will be another team interested–especially if he comes at just a $2.25MM cap hit through next season, should Arizona retain 50 percent.
Karel Vejmelka is another one of the interesting names to watch, should the goaltending market continue to improve in the next ten days. The 25-year-old netminder has been a revelation this season but is also just a year away from unrestricted free agency. Just yesterday his name was brought up by Chris Johnston of TSN, who opined that if the two sides couldn’t work out an extension, the Coyotes could potentially move on from the goaltender before the deadline.
Others To Watch For: F Johan Larsson (IR), G Scott Wedgewood
1) Draft Picks: It’s simple, the Coyotes are trying to build through the draft. A 22-year-old player that’s headed for restricted free agency soon might be attractive to most teams, but for one that’s about to slash revenues by moving into a tiny building and isn’t expected to really compete for the playoffs in the next few years, a prospect that will head back to junior, college, or overseas is actually the better route. The Coyotes have a ton for this season and for 2024 but note that they have only two selections in the first two rounds of 2023–a draft that has some exceptional talent. Don’t be surprised to see them add to their 2023 collection so that the wave of prospects doesn’t have a gap.
2) Flippable Contracts: It’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Coyotes flip players like Gostisbehere and Ritchie after building them back up with prime deployment. It’s a great strategy for a team that doesn’t really care about wins and losses, and one that has worked well for other franchises in the past. Just yesterday, the idea of acquiring Andreas Johnsson was brought up by Darren Dreger of TSN because of how front-loaded his contract is. The Coyotes could nab a player like that, pay him for 12 months (while giving him powerplay and top-six time) and then flip him for even more next deadline when every team in the league can afford the decreased cap hit. While some might say that the New Jersey Devils aren’t the team to target with that kind of a strategy, there are plenty of other opportunities just like it out there.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images
there is progress, but I was just wondering what they could have gotten if they were able to keep Bunting. dude’s quietly killing it this year.
What young stud wouldn’t do good with AM and MM?????
it helps, but he’s 20-27 in 58 games after showing decently last year in Phoenix. Part of that’s got to be on him.
Zadina + Albert Johansson for Vejmelka and Moser.
Will be fascinating to watch as a neutral observer.