The Coyotes are not simply sellers this season.
It is easy to place teams into the two categories. You are in the hunt, or you are on the fringe as far as the playoffs are concerned, and that makes you a buyer at the deadline. Right? Or you are on the outside looking in and you are a seller. Sounds fair enough, doesn’t it?
You have players who are impending unrestricted free agents (Derek Morris
, Steven Reinprecht, Ken Klee and Mikael Tellqvist) and you may lose them for nothing in return come July 1.
By the time the NHL trade deadline comes around, the management knows that player inside and out. The player knows the team, how the team runs things, where it is heading, in their opinion, so the deadline isn’t much of a surprise date.
The only time it gets tricky is if you are a team like Florida that has big, strong, 30:00 minute a night player such as Jay Bouwmeester. The Panthers haven’t been in the postseason in nearly 10 years, and right now they are in the thick of things. The danger, of course, is keeping your asset, making the playoffs (or worse, not) and that asset packs his bags and leaves.
(see Ottawa as a prime example with Zdeno Chara and Wade Redden).
Florida could really stockpile their cupboard with at least four assets for a player like Bouwmeester. They could parlay him into a first-round pick, prospect and two warm bodies in all likelihood.
Do they get a defenseman that can play 30 or more minutes? That big and strong? That is unlikely.
The team that trades for him would also have to know he will stay and sign a long-term deal, as they aren’t giving up those assets for a rental player. Not a chance.
The tricky part for Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney in trading Morris is he has a “no- trade” clause in his deal as a result of signing a three-year deal at the trade deadline three years ago. He had all the power and now he holds the cards. What if Maloney can’t get what he wants from the teams Morris gave him? He is not giving him away, after all, the Coyotes have paid his salary all season long. The team(s) that Maloney is dealing with also know that there only three or four that are “in play” as a result of the list given to Maloney by Morris. The key is to have two teams that need that type of defenseman bidding against each other. That would be the hope, anyway.
Let's get back to the start. I ramble, as usual.
The Coyotes have been trying to change the “culture” in the room and outside the room. They have made great progress, but have a ways to go still. They have been a really good team for 60-65 games a year now for the past two seasons. That is a start, but clearly not good enough. The management and the coaches all know that. They need more discipline. They need to have more structure but, more importantly, they still need to weed out players that are counted on in big games, at crucial times in the season, that have not delivered.
That is a process that takes awhile. Sometimes the trade deadline is the perfect time to get rid of contracts and/or just an excuse to get rid of players you know will have no place on your roster in the future.
Here is the key.
You are still judged by good hockey deals vs. good business deals.
There is absolutely no doubt that Maloney and Wayne Gretzky are going to make good hockey deals. They are not selling just to “dump” salary. You can’t . You still need to at least be at the “floor” of the salary cap. They have evaluated this group all season long. Up until the All-Star break, the team was on a roll, as high as fifth in the Western Conference.
The issue began when adversity hit. They did not come back from the All-Star break prepared to battle in every game. They played well in some games, but lacked what it took in the biggest of the games, the ones you have to win, the old “four-point games.”
I will be at TSN in Toronto for trade deadline day and will be writing blogs during the day. So stay right here and on the Twitter site for all the latest on the Coyotes.