GLENDALE – The Coyotes on Wednesday added defenseman Kevin Connauton to the roster after claiming him off waivers from the Columbus Blue Jackets.
“It’s awesome,” Connauton said as he waited to board a Phoenix-bound flight on Wednesday afternoon. “The Coyotes are a good, young team and they’ve had a lot of success this year. I’m really excited that they’ve shown belief in me and that they’re willing to give me an opportunity. Now it’s up to me to prove them right.”
Connauton, 25, has played 125 games for Dallas and Columbus since being selected by Vancouver with the 83rd overall pick in the 2009 NHL Draft. He has notched 11 goals and 26 assists as an NHLer.
In 27 games with Columbus this season, Connauton notched one goal and seven assists and his plus/minus rating was a team-best plus-10. His role changed dramatically after the Blue Jackets acquired defenseman Seth Jones from Nashville in a trade for center Ryan Johansen.
Blue Jackets Head Coach John Tortorella told Connauton he had been claimed by the Coyotes as the Blue Jackets were eating a pre-game meal in Toronto just after noon on Wednesday.
“I think they’re looking for change,” Connauton said. “…I don’t necessarily agree that I should have been the odd man out but I was and that’s part of the business. It’s up to them to make decisions on their team, and now I’m moving on to the next chapter.”
Connauton will report to the Coyotes at Thursday’s morning skate, a few hours before the team puts its four-game winning streak on the line vs. the Detroit Red Wings at Gila River Arena.
“We’re looking to try to add some depth to our blue line,” Head Coach Dave Tippett said. “He’s kind of one of those guys that’s an in-between guy. He moves the puck pretty well, he can play the power play, and he’s played both the left and right side. Our scouts liked what they saw with him so we’ll give him an opportunity.”
To make room for Connauton, the Coyotes assigned forward John Scott to the American Hockey League. Tippett said Scott would be recalled in the next day or so, and once he is back on the roster the Coyotes expect Scott to attend the NHL All-Star Game as a fan-voted captain.
Connauton knows a few of his new teammates. He and goalie Anders Lindback were teammates not long ago with Dallas, and he and forwards Kyle Chipchura and Jordan Martinook skate among a group of NHLers trying to stay in shape in the off-season in Edmonton.
Connauton is eager to help the Coyotes make a playoff push in the second half of the season.
“I think it’s a really good team,” Connauton said. “They’ve got a lot of good veterans and a lot of good, young guys. It seems like every time you turn on the highlights you see their young guys scoring goals.”
Connauton hasn’t played in a game since Dec. 29 but he says he’s 100 percent healthy and ready to go.
“I think I’m a good two-way defenseman,” Connauton said. “I can contribute offensively, but since I’ve turned pro I’ve been really focusing on the defensive side of the puck because that’s what’s needed in order to stay in this league. I defend hard and I think I move pucks well and bring the puck out of the zone, and then once we get on the offensive side of things I think I have a good chance of contributing there, too.”
Connauton will wear sweater No. 44 with the Coyotes.