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Coyotes Plan to be 'Patient' During Free Agency Period

G.M. John Chayka says Arizona won't be 'overly aggressive' this off-season

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

GLENDALE -- With the NHL Entry Draft over and the annual prospect development camp winding down, the Coyotes soon will turn their full attention to the NHL free agent signing period that begins Saturday at 9 a.m. Arizona time.

"It's just another mechanism to improve your team," General Manager John Chayka said. "But having said that, I think we covered a lot of ground in trades, and I think there's still some liquidity in the trade market so we're looking at some things there. I would categorize our approach to free agency as patient. We want to see where the market sets, we want to see where the capital is being allocated and then see if there's an opportunity for us to improve our group."

Chayka described this year's class of unrestricted free agents as weaker than classes of recent years, and he also said that building a roster primarily via free agency isn't his preferred method. However, if the right player - perhaps a bottom-six winger or a depth defenseman - is available at the right price, the Coyotes might act.

"We're not going to be overly aggressive this year based off of our current team, the roster and the way it kind of projects out, and also the depth that we have in prospects," Chayka said. "… In order for us to sign a player they've got to be better than what we have. That's what we're looking at ... I don't see any glaring holes (on the roster). Now is this a Stanley Cup roster as I look at it today? No. But we're still looking to improve upon it and build upon it and if we can address some areas that could be better, then that's what we're going to look to do. You're never satisfied, but I'd say the core of the group is pretty set."

Forward Radim Vrbata, who led Arizona in goals (20), assists (35) and points (55) last season, is set to become an unrestricted free agent on Saturday. Chayka said the Coyotes are considering re-signing the 36-year-old winger.

"We have some interest," Chayka said. "... He had a great year, but we're in the business of paying for future performance and not past performance ... He is certainly a guy that we have interest in, but he would not be the only alternative."

Chayka turned heads last week by acquiring center Derek Stepan, goalie Antti Raanta and defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson in trades just before the draft.

So, are more trades in the works?

"I think there's still opportunities," Chayka said. "Whether I'm done (trading) or not will depend on a willing partner, but we still have those discussions ongoing to try and improve this group and I'm hopeful that we can. But again, I think we have some strong internal candidates too."

Meanwhile, Chayka said the search for a new head coach continues, and he's hoping to complete interviews of candidates by the end of next week.

"I was surprised even at the number of people that are very, very intrigued and interested by our situation and our group here," Chayka said. "Some experienced and accomplished coaches are excited about what we have going on here in Arizona. So, we're going through the process."

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