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Chayka: Smith Trade Likely Just the Start of Key Moves

Coyotes G.M. John Chayka has planted trade seeds around the League

by Dave Vest @davest4yotes / Arizona Coyotes

GLENDALE -- Coyotes General Manager John Chayka said shipping goalie Mike Smith to Calgary on Saturday likely is just the first of several key roster moves the team will make this off-season.

"This move wasn't made in isolation," Chayka said. "It was made to set up other moves to improve our club ... I think we've planted a lot of seeds that we can move forward with."

The Coyotes sent Smith, the franchise's most accomplished netminder, to the Flames in exchange for the rights to soon-to-be unrestricted free-agent goaltender Chad Johnson and unsigned NCAA defenseman Brandon Hickey, plus a conditional third-round draft pick in 2018. 

"It's not an easy deal to make," Chayka said. "I wouldn't say we had maximum leverage or anything like that, but this was market value for Mike Smith. From our perspective, we get probably another high pick, which is important for deal-making and to create assets moving forward for us, and we get Brandon Hickey, who we think is a really strong, left-shot defenseman that has played really well for Boston University."

As for Johnson, who played four of his 138 NHL games for the Coyotes in 2012-13, Chayka said he's an option at goaltender. Other goalies in the system include Louis Domingue, Adin Hill, Marek Langhamer, Hunter Miska and Merrick Madsen, whom the team acquired from Philadelphia on Friday, along with center Nick Cousins, in a minor deal. Only Domingue has significant NHL experience, thus the Coyotes plan to look outside the franchise for immediate help in net. 

"There's a lot of options out there and it's something that we're very active in right now," Chayka said. "Hopefully we can get a good goaltender in there that can help our group next year ... There's a chance (Johnson) could be a starter in this League, but right now we're just sorting through all the different options and he'd be one of them ... With expansion, there's a lot of unprotected goalies out there. Vegas doesn't need 10. They only need a couple, and there's opportunities for trades from that perspective."

Smith leaves the Coyotes as the franchise's leader in games (312), saves (8,763) and shutouts (22). With 128 wins, he was just two wins shy of tying the team's all-time mark for victories set by Ilya Bryzgalov. 

"We're trying to continue to build for the future and continue to make this as competitive a team as possible," Chayka said. "We think we've got a good, young group here who has a chance to be a good team next year. The reality is Mike Smith is a 35-year-old goaltender and when some of our players are reaching their prime years then he's probably on the wrong side of his career."

He added: "It's about team building here. Goalie is one position where there's a lot of good goaltenders out there right now and not a whole lot of spots. We're hopeful we can get a good goalie at a fair number that makes sense and then re-allocate some of those resources to fill out the rest of the roster. That was the decision."

Hickey notched 15 points (four goals, 11 assists) in 35 games as a junior with BU in 2016-17. The 6-foot-2, 190-pounder, who has been named BU's team captain for the 2017-18 season, was selected by the Flames in the third round (64th overall) of the 2014 NHL Draft. The Coyotes first took notice of him while scouting Clayton Keller at BU.

"He's one of those guys, the more you watch him, the more you like him," Chayka said. "We're excited to have him in the mix as well."

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