Arizona Coyotes

The Coyotes Offseason May Be As Intriguing As the Kraken

With the offseason full steam ahead, one team that may be just as interesting if not more than the Seattle Kraken this offseason are the Arizona Coyotes. Sure the Kraken are drafting their first ever roster with the upcoming NHL Expansion Draft on July 21st but no team has as many holes or question marks to fill with uncertainty than the Coyotes.

From a blueline that may feature just one returning full-time NHLer next season in Jakob Chychrun to a bevy of rumors involving players up front and in goal, the Coyotes are certainly going to have a different look about them next season.

The Coyotes got started early with many other teams making moves ahead of the NHL roster freeze and upcoming Seattle Expansion Draft. The big move which gave the Coyotes 3 draft picks came via trade with the New York Islanders. For taking on Andrew Ladd’s contract and adding the forward to the roster, the Coyotes were given a 2nd round pick for this season’s draft, a 2nd next season and a 3rd for 2023 with the latter two picks coming with conditions. The 2022 2nd round pick’s condition is that the Coyotes will receive the better of the two 2 round picks that the Islanders hold. For 2023, they will receive a 3rd round pick if Ladd plays a single game for the club in that season.

With the trade the Coyotes now hold 3 picks in the 2nd round of this draft as well as 2 in the 4th round rounding out with 1 more in the 5th and 6th rounds. For next season the Coyotes now hold a 1st round pick, 3 in the 2nd round again and 1 each in rounds 3-6. While they still without a 1st round pick this season or 3rd, the 3 in round 2 helps soften that blow and may add some flexibility in moving up in the draft.

The other move saw Coyotes 3rd string goaltender Adin Hill moved to the San Jose Sharks for goaltender Josef Korenar and San Jose’s 2nd round pick in 2022. This move saves the Coyotes from losing Hill in the expansion draft which was likely as they will now expose Korenar and adds another pick to the cupboard. While seeing Hill go is disappointing, losing him for nothing would have been far worse for the club. In his time with the team while they struggled, Hill played strong and had there not been an expansion draft, he most certainly would have been the backup behind Darcy Kuemper.

Now with the trades out of the way, the Coyotes released their lists for the Expansion Draft. For the protected lists there is not much of a surprise here:

Forwards

Lawson Crouse
Christian Dvorak
Conor Garland
Clayton Keller
Phil Kessel
Johan Larsson
Nick Schmaltz

Defenseman

Kyle Capobianco
Jakob Chychrun
Oliver Ekman-Larsson

Goaltenders

Darcy Kuemper


As for the exposed players that are eligible to be drafted by Seattle:

Forwards

Derick Brassard
Michael Bunting
Brayden Burke
Michael Chaput
Christian Fischer
Frederick Gauthier
John Hayden
Dryden Hunt
Andrew Ladd
Lane Pederson
Tyler Pitlick
Blake Speers
Tyler Steenbergen

Defenseman

Jason Demers
Cam Dineen
Alex Goligoski
Jordan Gross
Nicklas Hjalmarsson
Ilya Lyubushkin
Dysin Mayo
Aaron Ness
Jordan Osterle
Vili Saarijarvi

Goaltenders

Josef Korenar
Marek Langhammer
Antti Raanta

Looking at the list of available players, depending on how the Seattle Kraken build out their roster I can see them taking Ilya Lyubushkin as a good depth defenseman or Tyler Pitlick for a depth forward addition.

Once the Expansion Draft clears, the further questions that remain the focus for the Coyotes are aplenty. This is where things will certainly get very interesting for the team as they head in to the NHL Entry Draft. If there are moves to be made with any of the big question marks like Conor Garland, Phil Kessel and the rumors of Darcy Kuemper you’d have to think those moves will be coming soon.

We do know new head coach André Tourigny visited OEL in Sweden and it remains to be seen if the olive branch leads to OEL staying or if the ship has sailed with GM Bill Armstrong. On one hand it’s understandable and makes sense to see how OEL comes back under a new system that will undoubtedly be more fitting to his style but it also makes just as much if not more to move him and not take the chance that it doesn’t work.

The issue with taking the first option is if it doesn’t work, there is no way the Coyotes can get anything of value in a trade. Even if the option of trading is a loss which it will be, it still might be better to cut bait, the salary and move on.

The Coyotes tasks of addressing the possible moves are also paired with what will be a significant reduction in available money to play with. While the cap space is north of $40 million, the belief is the team will be nowhere near the spending that they have been which is entirely reasonable given the situation both on an off the ice.

The Coyotes also have the task of not just rounding out the rest of the defense as the belief is they will not be bringing back their free agents but essentially rebuilding it. If OEL and Lyubushkin are out of the picture that adds additional stress to the group. There are options in the minors with players like Victor Soderstrom who is NHL ready and possibly Kyle Capobianco albeit he did not look solid in his action with the club this season. That still leaves openings that the GM will have to explore in free agency and get creative.

There is belief mainly among fans that Keith Yandle who was recently bought out might be an option to return but without OEL I think that might be a stretch. Also with Yandle he would not be coming in for any real sort of defensive coverage and while the offense has always been his king, he would need to be a sheltered role paired with a solid stay at home defenseman to cover the woes which have increased significantly since being in Florida. There is also the possibility of trading for Anton Stralman who is also with the Panthers that would fit that defensive role albeit at a stiffer cap hit of over $5M.

Frank Seravalli who has had a busy time reporting on the Coyotes actions including those of trade rumors regarding Garland has also now dropped the bombshell that Kuemper is not interested in signing an extension beyond this season. While the loss of Kuemper will be a blow the team does have Ivan Prosvetov in the wings who is noted as the heir apparent to take over the net. With Kuemper’s numbers he should be able to bring back a solid return via any trade and while he being prone to injury is cause for concern, there are plenty of teams readily willing to add him to the roster. It would not be surprising to say the least if he is dealt by next season’s trade deadline or sooner if they can add additional goaltending to the roster to buffer before Prosvetov.

Then there is the talks about Phil Kessel possibly wanting out as well as Christian Dvorak being a trade chip showing on numerous well sourced sites such as the 4th Period, Frank Seravalli’s radar and more. Undoubtedly the Coyotes are entering a new era and with some of the players entering the back end of their twenties like Dvorak and Garland will be, it may make more sense to management to pull the trigger and maximize the returns.

Let’s face it, this is how the offseason is going to be. One for constant intrigue and questions, the Coyotes offseason may end up as being more of a story than the Seattle Kraken’s.

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