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Coyotes Collect Talent, Draft Picks on First Day of Free Agency

General Manager Bill Armstrong banking on today … and tomorrow

by Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Arizona Coyotes

A wild first day of free agency for the Coyotes included seven moves by General Manager Bill Armstrong.

The Coyotes signed four free agents, signed a 2018 draft pick to an entry-level contract, and made two trades. 

The day was capped by Armstrong's second blockbuster trade in less than a week. Arizona acquired a 2022 first-round draft pick, a 2024 conditional third-round draft pick, and defenseman Conor Timmins from the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for goalie Darcy Kuemper.

Armstrong sought a proper return for Kuemper for almost an entire year. He got what he wanted Wednesday evening. The Avalanche are Stanley Cup favorites in 2021-22 and with the departure of Philipp Grubauer to the Seattle Kraken, Colorado had a glaring need for a true No. 1 goalie.

"We needed to seek what we could gain by moving Darcy," Armstrong said. "That had gone on for a while. It's really just supply and demand out there. We were fortunate to have one of the best goaltenders in the game, and a couple of the best teams in the league were looking for one. So, you've really got to have a little bit of luck, and you've got to have a talented goaltender. We put those two together and we were able to get a first-rounder because of it."

The Coyotes now own 11 picks in the 2022 NHL Draft, including seven in the first two rounds (two first-rounders, five second-rounders).

Kuemper started 121 games in parts of four seasons with the Coyotes, posting a 55-48-15 record, a .920 save percentage and 2.43 goals-against average. 

"He's truly a great teammate," Armstrong continued. "He's a great person and somebody who came to the rink and wanted to make the Coyotes better every single day. He's just a tremendous pro. We wish him the best in his new role with the Avalanche."

Timmins, 22, a former second-round draft pick (No. 32), is a right-handed defenseman, at 6-foot-2, 185 pounds. 

"(Timmins) has got the ability to get into a Top-4 role and play huge minutes for us," Armstrong said. "We're a big fan of his. It helps us in this trade that we got an NHL player on the backside, and a right-hand defenseman who's over 6-foot-2. Those are hard to find. He's got tremendous upside, and he's got an opportunity to play for us right away." 

The Coyotes first trade of the day netted the organization a 2024 fourth-round draft pick from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for forward Lane Pederson. 

Then, there are those who were simply signed.

Forward Dmitrij Jaškin was the first signee announced Wednesday. Armstrong is familiar with Jaškin from his time in the St. Louis Blues' scouting department. Jaškin played six years in the Blues organization. 

Jaškin, 28, 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, played the previous two seasons with Moscow Dynamo in the KHL. He was named the KHL's regular season MVP in 2019-20, scoring 31 goals and totaling 63 points. Jaškin was recognized with the KHL's "Top Sniper Award," after leading the KHL in goals (38) in 2020-21. He also was recognized with a "Golden Helmet" as one of the best five players in the League. 

"Jaškin has really perfected his game," Armstrong said. "He's taken it to a new level in the KHL. Now, he's got to prove he can do it in the NHL. I think he has something to prove. hat was his big thing when we signed him. He wanted to come back over to the NHL and prove that he could score in this league." 

Goalie Carter Hutton was the next free agent signed. Hutton, 35, 6-foot and 208-pounds, also played in the Blues organization when Armstrong was in the St. Louis front office.

"That was a big step for us," Armstrong said. "I have familiarity with (Hutton) with the Blues, so we're really excited about that. "We'll continue to work to make our team better every day and see what comes our way as far as goaltender depth."

The Coyotes then signed forward Ryan Dzingel, 29, 6-foot, 190-pounds. Dzingel was a rookie with the Ottawa Senators when new Coyotes coach André Tourigny was an assistant coach with Ottawa in 2015-16.

"Dzingel has a tremendous amount of speed," Armstrong said. "Our coaches are very familiar with him. I think one of the reasons he signed with us was because of the trust factor he has with (Tourigny). They worked together back in the days of Ottawa. We need speed, and he's someone who provides it. He's going to put himself in a good situation in the Top 6 and we'll see if he can produce some points. He'll get a great opportunity."

The final free agent signing was forward Liam O'Brien from the Avalanche. O'Brien, 26, 6-foot-1, 213 pounds, went undrafted and has five points (1G, 4A) in 29 career NHL games with the Washington Capitals and Colorado.

Liam Kirk was the lone non-free-agent signee of the day. Kirk, 21, was drafted by the Coyotes in 2018 in the seventh round (No. 189), as the first English-born and -trained player to be drafted by an NHL team.

"In rookie camp, he can show everybody what he can do," Armstrong said. "He's got an ability to score. He's still got parts of his game that he needs to grow to be a full-time NHL player. So, the one thing I do like about Liam is that he really puts a lot of time and effort into (improving); he wants to be an NHL player. He works on not only his strengths, but also his weaknesses."

The first day frenzy of free agency painted a brighter picture of the team's future.

"There's some good opportunity for us to move forward as an organization," Armstrong said. "What we've tried to do through this whole landslide of accumulating picks is to move ahead through picks and prospects, and we've been able to make some progress.

"It's been a good time to be a 'Yote'," Armstrong said. "We were very fortunate to be at a good time where a lot of our contracts were expiring and we were able to take on some players and gain some picks. The Coyotes haven't gotten a lot of bounces over the years, so it's probably nice to see them get a few this year."

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