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Coyotes Address Key Needs Before Draft

Arizona traded for No. 1 center, starting goalie and top defenseman

by Dave Vest @davest4yotes / Coyotes Sr. Director of News Content

CHICAGO -- The Coyotes addressed three major roster needs on Friday just a few hours before the start of the 2017 NHL Draft at the United Center. 

"I think we've got some areas we can improve, but you add a No. 1 center, a top-pairing 'D' and a starting goalie, that's quite a bit in 24 hours," General Manager John Chayka said. "So, we'll start there."

Arizona acquired center Derek Stepan and goalie Antti Raanta in a trade with the New York Rangers, and defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson in a deal with Chicago.

"This organization has been looking for a No. 1 centerman for over a decade and he's a guy that can fill that hole," Chayka said of Stepan. "Derek is a solid 200-foot centerman that can make plays, win face-offs and can play in all situations (against) top competition. He just checks all the boxes for a top-line center for us. We've got a lot of great young wingers, but they need that stability up the middle of the ice to have success."

Stepan, 27, is eager to take on such a key role with a young team.

"I'm ready to step in and do whatever they ask me to do, that's for sure," Stepan said. "When I look at the Coyotes I look at a team that's got a ton of young talent and a team that's on the cusp of taking the next step into being a real strong team ... I look forward to jumping into a Coyotes jersey and playing with some of the young talent they have there."

Stepan has notched 128 goals and 232 assists in 515 NHL games, all with the Rangers, who drafted him 51st overall in 2008.

"The last seven years for me are a big part of my life and something I'll never forget," Stepan said. "I played some really fun hockey games at (Madison Square Garden). It's going to be something that I'm surely going to miss, but at the same time, this is a business. New York and Arizona made a business move and I'm starting my new life in Arizona. I couldn't be more excited to get down there."

Stepan has a few friends playing for the Coyotes in defenseman Alex Goligoski and Kevin Connauton. He also, of course, is quite familiar with Raanta, Arizona's new starting goalie.

"He's a leader in the room and on the ice," Raanta said of Stepan. "...He's going to show the right way to do things."

The Coyotes sent the seventh overall pick in the draft and defenseman Anthony DeAngelo to the Rangers to complete the trade for Stepan and Raanta. Arizona needed a new goalie after shipping Mike Smith to Calgary last Saturday.

"We've looked at it from every angle, quantitatively and qualitatively, and it just keeps circling back to of all the goalies that weren't elite starters last year, we think that this is a guy that can do that," Chayka said. "We think he needs some opportunity and some support. I think he can be that guy for us."

Raanta has played 92 NHL games over four seasons as a backup with Chicago and the Rangers. The 28-year-old Finn, who was not drafted, owns a 2.33 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage. 

"I have been privileged to play behind Corey Crawford in Chicago and Henrik Lundqvist in New York, and working with great goalie coaches in Chicago and New York ... It's been kind of like a step-by-step process for me. Last year, I kind of felt that my game was finding the right way and my confidence level was getting better and better all the time. I felt like I was giving the team the chance to win every night ... I feel I'm ready to take one more step and be playing more and get the No. 1 spot."

Hjalmarsson is a 30-year-old Swedish defenseman who is good pals with Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Per Chayka, the two will be paired together in Arizona's top defensive pairing.

To get Hjalmarsson, Chayka dealt defenseman Connor Murphy and forward Laurent Dauphin.

"He's a guy that we targeted for a while," Chayka said. "Oliver is a big part of our team. He had a tough year, but if he's at his best we think we have a chance to do something special. We think Hjalmarsson is the perfect partner for him ... They're good friends, they're both from Sweden. I think there's a lot of synergy there."


Hjalmarsson, whom Chicago drafted 108th overall in 2008, has notched 23 goals and 120 assists in 623 NHL games. He could not be reached for comment on Friday.



Video: Chayka Explains Draft Day Trades



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