Photo credit: NHL.com
On the 28th of December, we started a 3 part series on the Coyotes and where this season and beyond may take them. To catch up and review part 1 in this series – click here.
Since part 1, the Coyotes signed veteran center Derick Brassard (most recently with the New York Islanders) The center joins a newer center group that also added Frederick Gauthier on PTO. What does this move mean for the Coyotes? Essentially it buys them a much cheaper, more versatile forward than Stepan and helps to replace the depleted center depth since the exits of Stepan, Richardson and Soderberg. With all the pieces to plug around at center, it appears more likely that the team will be able to buy time with Barrett Hayton and get him more seasoning down in Tucson if he needs, which is not a bad thing. Look for Hayton to start the season up with the Coyotes and depending on his play possibly moving to Tucson for further development.
Now we venture to the blueline for part 2 of this series. The most intriguing aspect of the Coyotes season will come from moves made on the blueline. The Coyotes can come out swinging and clear the board of a bevy of expiring contracts, move pieces to acquire picks and prospects or re-sign those they feel fit within the future plan. Does GM Bill Armstrong push again to move Oliver Ekman-Larsson? Would moving Jakob Chychrun if a haul presents itself make sense? If you’re leaning towards a thought of yes on that, then whatever you would be getting in return needs to justify moving the potential premier defenseman who is under a long contract and still only 22 years old. For either move to make sense, there would need to be a return coming back of elite level talent – notably at the forward position to help get some sustainable scoring punch.
Let’s take a quick glance at the contract status for the Coyotes defensive group courtesy of CapFriendly.com
The primary wealth the Coyotes have right now in terms of depth is at the defensive position with prospects and players right on the bubble of making the big club. With this, the first names that jump out that are likely moving on after the season are Alex Goligoski and Jason Demers. Behind them is Niklas Hjalmarsson who has been the speculation of trades over the pandemic but with a full no-move clause, he is staying put bearing a change in heart. There’s Stanley Cup pedigree in this group as both Hjalmarsson and Goligoski have won the Cup so the veteran presence and deep playoff history may bode well for a team needing to pick up defensive help down the road. Demers himself has playoff experience missing the playoffs only twice prior to joining the Coyotes since breaking in with San Jose in 2009.
Defensively, all three leave room to be desired especially 5v5 in their own zone (charts courtesy of Hockeyviz.com) which will play a large factor in netting solid returns on any possible trades.
Another big caveat to the rental market notably for Hjalmarsson besides his NMC, is the injury plagued tenure he has had over his 3 seasons with the Coyotes. If he’s willing to waive and is healthy through the season there may be a market to grab another draft pick, if not there’s no chance he moves prior to his expiring contract.
This brings us to the other remaining UFA’s on the blueline, Jordan Oesterle and Ilya Lyubushkin. Osterle falls into the typical 6th or 7th defenseman role, leaning towards 7th on a tougher more competitive team. While his overall numbers are not great and he will not provide much on offensive output he could be another trade chip for GM Bill Armstrong. Lyubushkin who is on loan to Lokomotiv in the KHL is the team’s 7th defenseman. His overall numbers defensively slot him much higher on the ranks for the team as he is a solid stay at home defenseman in his own end. The Coyotes will likely hold on to the 26 year old as he will be a bargain contract wise and is solid in the depth roll.
This brings us to the prospect pool which is deeper for the Coyotes on defense than up front. Where I point to the most intrigue for this roster is how they proceed with the pending contracts and the likely injection of younger players into departing rolls.
One defenseman that is about as sure of a NHL roster member of any of the defensive prospects is Kyle Capobianco. For Capobianco, he has experience with the club on his side already and his roster spot is more or less a matter of not if but when. A sure bet for the taxi squad, Capobianco may find himself on the regular roster if any moves happen prior to the deadline. If not, he’ll be on the roster for next season.
On the remaining prospects pushing their way up to the club, their top rated defensive prospect is Victor Soderstrom. Similar to Capobianco, Soderstrom may end up getting a shot at the Coyotes roster this season or time on taxi squad. For him, he is quickly moving up the charts and will very likely be on the Coyotes roster after this season as a regular.
Rounding out the back end of the defensive depth are players like Dysin Mayo, Cam Dineen, Cameron Crotty. It would be unlikely to see any of these players make a impact in the NHL out of the gate but the foundation is there for a deep defensive well in the years to come.
On the final look at the upcoming Coyotes season in part 3, we look at the strongest piece of the Coyotes roster – the goaltending. After the net, we look at another possible position in flux which is the coaching staff and finally piece together what changes we think will happen with the Coyotes roster and how it may look moving forward for next season.
Stay tuned for part 3.