The Arizona Coyotes will be without top scorer Phil Kessel for the next few weeks after he suffered a foot injury in his offseason training. Kessel’s current timeline is two to three weeks, as GM Bill Armstrong explained to reporters including Craig Morgan of PHNX Sports. Three weeks from today would mean a return on the eve of the Coyotes’ regular season opener against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Galchenyuk, 27, appeared to be on his way out of hockey entirely before the Toronto Maple Leafs picked him up this season and worked to rebuild his game. It proved effective–at least somewhat–in the regular season when he registered 12 points in 26 games, but Galchenyuk was back to his frustratingly inconsistent self in the postseason. Flashes of brilliance were marred by one brutal giveaway, making his four points in six games against the Montreal Canadiens not mean much of anything.
It’s that inconsistency that has plagued Galchenyuk since his 30-goal season in Montreal when he looked like the star they hoped to select at third overall in 2012. He has struggled to find a fit with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Minnesota Wild and Ottawa Senators since then, meaning his last successful season was actually in Arizona in 2018-19. He had 19 goals and 41 points that year playing away from the bright lights of a big market, a form he is obviously hoping to regain with this tryout contract.
For the Coyotes, skill, inconsistent as it may be, is needed on this year’s roster. The team has Clayton Keller, Phil Kessel, and Nick Schmaltz at the top, but otherwise have a group of forwards that are all basically bottom-six options at this point. In fact, many of them couldn’t even secure that role on other teams, meaning Galchenyuk should have at least a fighting chance for an NHL contract.
You may have thought Andrew Ladd was retired. You wouldn’t be alone, but you’d be wrong. The veteran forward confirmed exactly that to Eric Duhatschek of The Athletic, explaining that not only is he still active, but he’s healthy and ready to contribute for the Arizona Coyotes this season. Ladd was acquired by the Coyotes in July as part of a salary dump by the New York Islanders, heading to the desert along with a package of draft picks in exchange for future considerations.
Even though he intends on playing, there still appears to be some doubt on how long his career can last. The conditions on the final pick included in that trade are that it only goes to Arizona if Ladd fails to play in a single professional game during the 2022-23 season or retires prior to that campaign. Yes, the 35-year-old is not only under contract for this season but also next, on the seven-year, $38.5MM deal he signed with the Islanders in 2016. He’ll carry a $5.5MM cap hit through 2022-23, though his actual salary is a bit less than that.
It’s hard to remember now, but Ladd was actually active during the 2019-20 season for the Islanders, playing 34 games for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers before a call-up in March. Unfortunately, that call-up was cut short when the league shut down due to the rising COVID-19 situation, but Ladd also dressed for a postseason game for the Islanders that summer. In 2020-21, he played just a single game for the Sound Tigers, but he’s ready to resume his career and go for that 1,000 regular season games played mark that so few are able to achieve.
For the Coyotes, who are clearly in a rebuild, Ladd represents lots of positive opportunities. Not only did they receive draft picks to take on his contract, but it helps them get to the cap floor and the veteran forward can provide some leadership on the ice in what will likely be a difficult season. He joins fellow 35+ players like Loui Eriksson, Jay Beagle, Anton Stralman, and Carter Hutton on the roster, a group that will help guide the younger players in the roster along the way. Ladd, who served as captain with the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets before his time in New York, has always been considered a well-respected leader in the league. He’ll have a brand new challenge this season as he looks to play out his final few years, reaching personal milestones along the way.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images
1:15pm: The Coyotes have made it official, signing Ferguson Jr. to a multi-year contract as AGM. Bill Armstrong released a statement:
We are very pleased to name John as our new assistant general manager. John is extremely knowledgeable about the game and with 20-plus years in the NHL, brings a tremendous amount of experience to our hockey operations department. We are thrilled to have him join our team and I am looking forward to working with him.
11:25am: The Arizona Coyotes are expected to announce a new assistant general manager shortly, as both Steve Conroy of the Boston Herald and Craig Morgan of PHNX Sports are reporting that John Ferguson Jr. will join the club.
The long-time executive has spent the last seven years with the Boston Bruins organization, serving as a director of player personnel. Prior to that he was with the San Jose Sharks as a director of pro scouting, Toronto Maple Leafs as general manager, St. Louis Blues as assistant GM and the Ottawa Senators as a scout. The son of five-time Stanley Cup winner John Ferguson, who played 500 games with the Montreal Canadiens before his own long front office career, Ferguson Jr. has been around the league for basically his entire life.
There are still some who point to the failed tenure as GM in Toronto as a reason to doubt Ferguson Jr. but make no mistake, he is a well-respected executive and was valuable to the Bruins organization. The Coyotes, who are trying to rebuild not only the on-ice product but also the perception of the front office, will happily welcome his experience and knowledge to their management group.
Since firing Steve Sullivan earlier this year, the Coyotes have operated without an official AGM. Morgan reports that Ferguson Jr. will in charge of the Tucson Roadrunners, who went without a GM for part of this season after Sullivan’s departure. That’s something he is very familiar with, having been GM of the Providence Bruins for the past five seasons.
Everyone wants a piece of top 2023 NHL Draft prospect Adam Fantilli, even those who probably don’t have a reasonable shot at him. The Ontario native made his development plans clear when he spurned the OHL for the USHL and then solidified his intent by committing to the University of Michigan last month. However, at least one team back home in Ontario is still hoping that he changes his mind. The North Bay Battalion have announced that they have acquired the OHL rights to Fantilli from the Saginaw Spirit in exchange for a package of picks. While most of the selections are conditional, Saginaw will at least land a 2022 sixth-round pick outright (not to mention the 2022 compensatory first-rounder already heading their way based on Fantilli’s “defected status.) Should North Bay’s gamble pay off, the Spirit would receive a 2024 second-round pick and 2025 second-round pick if Fantilli plays an OHL game in 2023-24 and an additional 2023 third-round pick and 2024 fourth-round pick if he plays any earlier. With Fantilli expected to join the Michigan Wolverines next year, it is highly unlikely that Saginaw will receive all four conditional picks. However, if the NCAA does not go as planned or if Fantilli decides to turn pro immediately after being drafted but is reassigned to the OHL, there is a slight chance that they could land those second-rounders. In reality though, Fantilli will likely shine at the college level and either be on an NHL roster or leading Michigan for one last season in 2023-24. The big scoring center is still worth the risk for North Bay, but the odds of a payoff are low.
- The Colorado Avalanche have revealed a coaching shake-up in the minor league ranks. Brett Clark, assistant coach for the AHL’s Colorado Eagles, will be unable to coach this season due to “new league protocols”. This implies that Clark is unvaccinated and cannot work with players during the 2021-22 campaign. In his place, Colorado has promoted Tim Branham, the head coach of their ECHL affiliate, the Utah Grizzlies, to the AHL assistant position. Branham, 40, has held the head coach as well as GM role for the Grizzlies since 2013 but will finally get a chance to show what he can do at the next level. The team release notes that Clark hopes to return to coaching as soon as possible.
- The top free agent coach right now is very likely Rick Tocchet, who mutually parted ways with the Arizona Coyotes this off-season and was a finalist for seemingly every other vacancy across the league. PHNX Sports’ Craig Morgan writes that Tocchet did have at least two offers to serve as an assistant in the NHL, but decided to go in a different direction. Tocchet has joined TNT as a studio analyst, Morgan notes, and will work alongside Wayne Gretzky during the network’s weekly broadcast. That is, until another head coach position opens up. Tocchet felt that he had to stay close to the game to stay relevant as a coaching candidate, but decided that working as an analyst could accomplish that goal. “It’s an opportunity to stay in the game, learn more about the game and reinvent yourself,” Tocchet said. “I think that every year, coaches have to hit the refresh button on something. You can’t bring the same thing to the table every year. You’ve got to learn new things because the game is always changing; players are always changing.” A former standout two-way forward in addition to an experienced coach, Tocchet will bring a lot to the analyst position – for however long it lasts.
The Arizona Coyotes have added another assistant to their coaching staff, hiring Mario Duhamel to a multi-year contract. He joins head coach Andre Tourigny as well as assistants Phil Housley, Cory Stillman, and goaltending coach Corey Schwab. Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong released a statement on his new coach:
We are very pleased to have Mario join the Coyotes organization and Head Coach André Tourigny’s staff. He brings extensive hockey knowledge and coaching experience to our team, and we are confident that he will be a great addition. We are also pleased to have Phil, Cory and Corey return this season. They are all quality people and very good coaches.
Duhamel, 46, follows Tourigny from the Ottawa 67’s of the OHL where he served as associate coach for the last three seasons. He has years of experience in the QMJHL as both an assistant and head coach, and even served as a video coach with the Colorado Avalanche for two seasons under Patrick Roy (Tourigny was an assistant coach on that staff).
Perhaps the bigger announcement today was that Housley, Stillman and Schwab will return in their roles under Tourigny. All three served in their respective roles under Rick Tocchet, and provide a strong staff for the rookie head coach to lean on as he transitions back to the NHL. The Coyotes underwent some drastic changes this offseason in terms of on-ice personnel and have collected a huge number of draft picks to kick start a rebuild. This coaching staff will be asked to navigate what is expected to be a difficult season, given the lack of high-end talent on the roster.
The Montreal Canadiens announced today that they’ve acquired center Christian Dvorak from the Arizona Coyotes. The return is a conditional 2022 first-round draft pick as well as a 2024 second-round selection.
The conditions listed on the 2022 first-round pick are complex, to say the least. Arizona will receive the better of the two first-round picks that Montreal owns, both their own and Carolina’s (received today as compensation for Jesperi Kotkaniemi). The first-round pick is also semi-top-10 protected, meaning that if one of Montreal’s first-round selections is in the top 10 of the 2022 draft, Arizona will receive the worse of the two picks.
For Montreal, it’s a quick answer to the questions raised by how they’d fill the departure of both Phillip Danault and Kotkaniemi this offseason. There’s a lot to like about this Dvorak acquisition, including his cost certainty. The 25-year-old center is under contract for four more seasons at a cap hit of $4.45MM, with a modified no-trade clause that kicks in for the last two seasons of his deal.
Dvorak, who likely slots as the second-line center behind Nick Suzuki, is a capable two-way player who’s faced tough competition during his time in Arizona. Likely to receive a slight reduction on his 18:24 average time on ice from last season, his offensive numbers could improve from his career-high 18 goals and 38 points with a little less responsibility. From a hockey standpoint, Dvorak’s proven game at the NHL level makes him an immediate upgrade over Kotkaniemi for less money.
The Coyotes are in full teardown mode and not ashamed to show it. The team has now just three forwards on the active roster signed through next season – Clayton Keller, Nick Schmaltz, and Andrew Ladd. Only two of those players are expected to be contributors at the NHL level. The team is projected to have upwards of $47MM in space heading into next year’s offseason and their gutted roster lead many to believe they’ll be in the running for first overall in 2022. Now equipped with eight picks in the first two rounds of the draft, the full rebuild has begun in Arizona.
All salary cap figures courtesy of CapFriendly.com
The Arizona Coyotes may not be playing in Gila River Arena in Glendale beyond this season, but their future may still lie in the Phoenix area. AZ Central’s Paulina Pineda reports that the city of Tempe invited bids to develop a 46-acre area for entertainment purposes and the confirmed that the Coyotes submitted a bid. It is unknown if any competing bids were submitted before today’s deadline.
Tempe is located on the other side of Phoenix from Glendale but only about 30 miles away from the Coyotes’ current home. The area in question resides on a stretch of the Salt River known as Tempe Town Lake. It is central to Tempe, but also not far from the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and the city of Scottsdale. Though the Coyotes could not make any material comment on the bidding process, they stated that they are “incredibly excited about this extraordinary opportunity.” A winning bid would allow the Coyotes to build a state of the art arena of their own design and further develop the area into a attractive entertainment locale. The draw of this new area could be aided by the close proximity of Arizona State University, whose hockey program has quickly developed a strong following of its own.
Of course, competing bids or not, this by no means secures the Coyotes’ future in Arizona. Even an uncontested bid may not be to the liking of the city of Tempe, either financially or in the plan’s details. The city will also likely weigh the benefits of bringing the team to town, as they did have their fair share of struggles in Glendale. Until anything becomes official, it is fair to keep up the Houston/Quebec City/Milwaukee speculation, but many in Arizona will be happy to hear about this promising new development for their Coyotes.
The Canadiens are believed to have identified Coyotes center Christian Dvorak as their top trade target as they investigate their options following the Jesperi Kotkaniemi offer sheet, reports Sportsnet’s Eric Engels (audio link). The 25-year-old was the logical speculative target for Montreal in this scenario with Arizona believed to be willing to move him and Dvorak being signed for four more years at $4.45MM while plausibly slotting in on the second line in the role that Kotkaniemi was expected to fill. The asking price for Dvorak was believed to be high at the draft and with Montreal’s hand being forced here, it could even be higher now.
The Arizona Coyotes have signed Dylan Guenther to his three-year, entry-level contract. Guenther was selected ninth overall earlier this summer. Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong released a short statement on the signing:
We are very pleased to welcome Dylan to the Coyotes organization. Dylan is an extremely skilled and smart player with a great work ethic. We are confident that he will become a very good NHL player and look forward to watching his development this season.
CapFriendly reports that the deal will carry an AAV of $925K plus an additional $850K in Class ’A’ performance bonuses each season.
Guenther, 18, played just 12 games for the Edmonton Oil Kings this season, but actually led the league in points-per-game. His 24 points were an impressive total for a player that had just 59 in 58 games in 2019-20, and led to his continued rise up draft boards.
Of course, the Coyotes didn’t have a first-round pick in this year’s draft when the season ended. The team had been stripped of that selection thanks to scouting violations by the previous management team, a brutal punishment for a team that was struggling to find much success on the ice. The pick that Guenther was picked with came from the Vancouver Canucks in the Oliver Ekman-Larsson deal, and represents a very important selection for the Coyotes.
The young Guenther is likely headed back to the WHL for this season, meaning the first year of his entry-level deal will not be burned. The contract will instead slide forward–unless he manages to make the NHL team–meaning he’s locked up at least through 2024-25.