The trade deadline looms and is now less than a week away. 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.
After a disastrous-by-design campaign that saw the Arizona Coyotes finish 25-50-7, the only expectation entering this year was to be in contention for the No. 1 overall pick. But just like last season when Arizona failed to fail enough, landing the No. 3 overall pick, the Coyotes find themselves toward the back of the line again this season, although maybe not as far back as they would prefer.
The Coyotes’ improved record has been the result of some unexpectedly strong play, including a 10-game point streak once the calendar flipped to 2023. With multiple players sitting on the trade block, the Coyotes are poised to add more young players and draft selections as March 3 approaches.
20-29-9, 7th in the Central
Deadline Cap space
70,653,619MM, 1/3 retention slots used, 44/50 contracts used, per CapFriendly.
Upcoming draft picks
2023: ARI 1st, ARI 2nd, WAS 3rd, ARI 3rd, ARI 4th, ARI 5th, VGK 5th, ARI 6th,
2024: ARI 1st, ARI 2nd, FLA 2nd, MTL 2nd, ARI 3rd, COL 3rd, EDM 3rd, ARI 4th, SJS 4th, ARI 5th, ARI 6th, ARI 7th, BOS 7th
The Coyotes are in a strong position of being able to utilize both players on their roster and their abundance of cap space to make deals for futures. Taking on inflated contracts from other teams in exchange for draft picks is something Arizona has done in recent years and they could take on a rather sizable contract for a high draft pick as teams get pinched by their cap situations. The Coyotes are willing to take on a player, knowing they won’t suit up for the franchise. That willingness has allowed them to take advantage of teams in salary cap crunches in exchange for draft picks.
Jakob Chychrun has had his name in trade talks for over a year. Due to the term on his deal, the Coyotes have held onto him, awaiting the right offer. With two years remaining on his contract at a cap hit of 4.6MM, Chychrun could be counted on to provide quality two-way play for the foreseeable future for a contending team. He is only two years removed from potting 18 goals in 56 games, but has just 14 in the past 83 games.
A contender would offer more talent to be on the receiving end of Chychrun’s breakout passes, and his offensive output could see an uptick once he is dealt. An interesting player, Chychrun’s value on a new team could depend on who else is on that team’s blue line. He could serve as a No. 1 option for a club looking to add depth at the very top of their blue line, or he could be a dangerous secondary option.
The beneficiary of an abundance of ice time in Arizona, Shayne Gostisbehere was acquired for essentially nothing from the Philadelphia Flyers a few seasons ago. He posted 51 points (14G, 37A) in 82 games last season, his highest output since 65 points with the Flyers in 2017-18. He has 29 points in 50 games this season and will be a UFA this summer.
Assuming his play doesn’t level off with a change of scenery, Gostisbehere will provide a spark as a puck-moving, offensive-minded rearguard to any team with Cup aspirations. He is the classic deadline rental type of player who could see his free agent prospects rise with a strong showing on a team making a deep playoff run.
Another player likely to be moved at some point is forward Nick Schmaltz. Schmaltz has term left on his deal, meaning the Coyotes could hold onto him into the summer or ask a higher price for at the deadline. With a cap hit of 5.8MM for three more seasons, an acquiring team could pencil him in for a few more years as a top-six option at forward.
Schmaltz had his strongest offensive performance last season, with 23 goals and 36 assists for 59 points in 63 games. With 39 points in 43 games, Schmaltz has elevated his play to point-per-game status.
The Coyotes should be looking to unload anything that isn’t bolted down as they rebuild their organization from the ground up. Moving even fringe pieces for draft picks or young players will only add to the Coyotes’ coffers.
The short answer here is the Coyotes need anything and everything. The more high draft picks and young players the Coyotes can gather, the more likely they will find their way out of the wilderness of rebuilding.
With three first-round picks made by the Coyotes last year and a chance to add additional picks in the first three rounds this year, the Coyotes will end up making more draft selections than most teams would in just a two-year span, as well as holding four picks in the top two rounds in 2024.
The Coyotes are aiming to have a competitive team by the time their new arena opens, which is set to be voted on by the City of Tempe, Arizona, on May 16. The new arena is not a guarantee, but Arizona could potentially have a team driven by a talented young core by that point.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images