The 2021 offseason for general manager Bill Armstrong and his Arizona Coyotes has been a one of great intrigue. In an earlier article, I talked about how the Coyotes offseason may in fact be more intriguing than the inaugural season Seattle Kraken and so far that has looked to be on the money.
GM Bill Armstrong masterfully navigated muddy waters going into another rebuild for the organization in a recurring theme that seems to never have a happy ending for the club. The major difference this time is that finally for the Coyotes and their fans, there appears to be a strong foundation from which to build on.
While this season and the coming after may not be all that exciting on the ice and a tough pill to swallow at times for the fans, the roadmap to the future appears bright. Armstrong accomplished this with a flurry of moves early on in the offseason starting with essentially the entire defensive group as pending free agents. Armstrong did not retain a single pending free agent from that group which created massive holes on the blueline. Like the holes in draft capital, Armstrong quickly went to work and replenished both in fascinating fashion.
On the draft front, Armstrong took a cupboard that was depleted and a death sentence for any team in a rebuild and found a way to restock it to the point that the cupboard is now bursting at the seams. By taking on contracts like Andrew Ladd, Shane Gostisbehere he racked up second round picks like no other team we’ve seen before. Then came the blockbuster trade with the Vancouver Canucks by sending Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland for a 1st round pick in this years draft (one they had no picks in), cap relief, Antoine Roussel, Loui Eriksson, and Jay Beagle, and an additional 2 more picks.
While the loss of Garland stings badly for the fans and truly the team as well, with the current state of the team it was a no brainer. They shed any gambles on Ekman-Larsson’s contract, obtained a top tier talent in the draft, plug some holes in the lineup and have stop gap players in place to get them through the season.
Prior to the expansion draft, Armstrong negated losing a possible target of the Kraken in goaltender Adin Hill. Moving the goaltender to the San Jose Sharks for fellow netminder Josef Korenar and a 2022 second-round pick.
Then in another deal, this time with the Florida Panthers the Coyotes acquired Anton Stralman for the defensive group to again add to the gap coverage for next season. Somehow again, another draft pick was acquired.
The Colorado Avalanche after losing Philip Grubauer to the Kraken then came calling for Darcy Kuemper. While difficult to lose the top goaltender for the past few seasons, Kuemper had made it clear he would not sign an extension. The timing for the deal was beyond perfect as the Coyotes were able to capitalize on the Avs desperate need. The deal landed them a 2022 first-round pick to add to their stockpile.
A few other deals by Armstrong bolstered the Tucson Roadrunners with some size and protection for the younger players with Bokondji Imama and Cole Hults joining the club from L.A. and an additional draft pick was aquired from San Jose for Lane Pederson.
In addition to all the trades and moves, Armstrong made a few signings in free agency to plug more holes in goalie Carter Hutto, and forwards Ryan Dzingel, Dimitrij Jaskin, Travis Boyd, Liam O’Brien, Hudson Fasching, Michael Carcone. They also signed 2018 draft pick Liam Kirk to his first NHL contract.
While none of the signings scream out as success once the puck drops, that is not what matters here. For the bigger picture, the Coyotes will ice a team that will compete and be a tough out but the likelihood is a top 5 draft pick which is a major victory. It is also a picture of the future for players like Clayton Keller, Nick Schmaltz and Christian Dvorak. The latter who has been involved in plenty trade speculation had a down year and needs to bounce back. There is also the story of Phil Kessel and what happens with him moving forward. Will we see more of Kessel from last season and how does that propel his trade value?
After all the moves and shakeup of the roster has finished, the Coyotes stand with all four paws planted firmly in the foundation that Armstrong has set. The team has gone from barely any draft capital to 11 picks in next season’s draft which is highly regarded to be very deep (2 in round 1, 5 in round 2) as well as 8 the following year and 9 the year after with a possibility of 10. With so many kicks at the prospect can or the possibility for trades to bring in instant improvement, the roadmap to long term success is finally something that Coyotes fans can reasonably look forward to.Embed from Getty Images
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