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Coyotes Looking to Future After Trades

by Jerry Brown / Arizona Coyotes


GLENDALE -- When the Coyotes traded center Antoine Vermette and defenseman Zbynek Michalek leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline on Monday, there was little surprise. Each can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and the Coyotes needed to get what they could before losing them.

But in between, Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney pulled the trigger on a trade that sent shockwaves through the dressing room.

Don Maloney. Photo by Dave Vest

Coyotes leading scorer Keith Yandle, who spent his entire eight-season career in Arizona, most of it in the locker next to captain Shane Doan, was traded to the New York Rangers on Sunday, with Maloney content that the promise of young center Anthony Duclair and a first- and second-round draft pick would be a big part of a future that needed to begin as soon as possible.

That future now includes defenseman Klas Dahlbeck and a first-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft from the Chicago Blackhawks for Vermette; Duclair, defenseman John Moore and a 2016 first-round pick and a 2015 second-round pick from the Rangers for Yandle; and 19-year-old center Maxim Letunov from the St. Louis Blues for Michalek.

There was no looking back Monday.

"All three (traded) players are exceptional players and people and were here for the good and the bad," Maloney said. "But this isn't a fraternity. We're here to win, and that's why we all get paid. And when you don't win, changes are made. We missed (the Stanley Cup Playoffs) a couple of years ago, we barely missed last year, and this year we missed by a mile and a half. That's not acceptable. We have to change our approach, take a deep breath, look at the teams that win and what it takes to win, and we need more young assets."

This isn't a fraternity. We're here to win, and that's why we all get paid. And when you don't win, changes are made." -- Don Maloney

Maloney said, in retrospect, Arizona's unexpected run to the Western Conference Final in 2012 gave a false sense of what the talent level was.

"Even though we scratched and clawed and made the playoffs and our goalie stood on his head and won a couple of rounds, it wasn't sustainable and we knew that," Maloney said. "We have to get back to the point when we go into every season with a legitimate opportunity to win."

Stable ownership led by Andrew Barroway and the encouragement of others in the group played a key role for Maloney. He was able to obtain a better return on the trades because the Coyotes picked up some of the salary for their former players: 50 percent of Michalek's for the rest of this season, and 50 percent of Yandle's for this year and next.

"The (Yandle) deal never would have happened without this ownership," Maloney said. "I would have hung up the phone on (Rangers G.M. Glen Sather) in five minutes. 'You need us to take salary? OK, nice talking to you.' It's a real credit to this group who is taking an intelligent approach to build this from the base up and throw good money after bad.

"When an opportunity to, for lack of a better term, purchase a 19-year-old potential star came up, they were pushing me to say 'Don, if you like the deal, do the deal.' And if I owned this team I would be doing exactly the same thing."

Maxim Letunov. Photo by Getty Images.

Pleased with the acquisition of Letunov, whom the Coyotes wanted to draft in 2014 but the Blues beath them by six picks, Maloney said the return on Michalek could have and would have been higher if not for the concussion that has kept him out of the lineup for two weeks. The Coyotes will send a third-round pick to the Blues if Michalek is unable to play for the rest of the season.

But two first-round picks and one second-round pick in the next two years satisfied and even surprised Maloney, but it wasn't uncommon during this deadline period.

"Look at the first-round picks going for strictly guys on expiring contracts," he said. "It's competition to win. If you're in one city and competing against another city willing to give up the pick, it's hard to justify it for your fan base. I was a little taken aback by some of the returns people were willing to give up."

So the Coyotes look to the future, one Maloney sees as much brighter than it was 72 hours ago.

"We're going to be a lot more fun to watch next year," he said. "We will be younger, but we will be looking at more skill in our lineup. Whether the results on the ice are significantly better … we think they can be better, but with young players it takes time.

"But when you start looking at what we have, we have Anthony Duclair, who is ready to play now. Max Domi (the 12th pick in the 2013 NHL Draft) is ready to play now in an offensive role. You look at where we will draft and we're going to get a terrific player. And we have other players who are close. We'll have a healthy Mikkel Boedker and a healthy Martin Hanzal and a star in Oliver Ekman-Larsson to build our defense around.

"To me this is a day of hope and opportunity and excitement for this franchise because I do think if you really look three or four years down the road, you can see the making of a winner here."

NOTES:

• The Coyotes assigned forward Lucas Lessio to the American Hockey League.

• The Coyotes claimed forwards Tye McGinn and Craig Campbell off waivers from San Jose and Boston, respectively. Both players will report to the Coyotes at the morning skate on Tuesday and be eligible to play vs. Anaheim on Tuesday night.

Klas Dahlbeck. Photo by Dave Vest.

• Dahlbeck and Moore practiced with the Coyotes for the first time on Monday.

"It's been a tough year for me, battling to get minutes in New York, but I believe in myself and this is a tremendous opportunity,” Moore said.

Head Coach Dave Tippett said he spoke with his pal Joel Quenneville about Dahlbeck and the Blackhawks head coach raved about him.

"He really likes this player," Tippett said. "I don't think that's a player they wanted to get rid of. He's a big strong defenseman which is something we need."

• The Coyotes acquired goaltender David Leggio from the New York Islanders in exchange for defenseman Mark Louis. Leggio will provide depth at goaltender at the American Hockey League level.

• Tippett said he would announce the team’s new alternate captains on Tuesday. Yandle and Vermette were wearing ‘A’ on their sweaters before being traded this weekend, and Martin Hanzal is out for the season.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Dave Vest of arizonacoyotes.com contributed to this report.

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