“Hi everyone. We didn’t make a deal. Thanks for coming,” he quipped.
The funny line drew laughs from the assembled media. Maybe it was Maloney’s way of relieving stress from an annual event on the hockey calendar that, at the very least, can fray the nerves of hockey executives across the circuit. But it was his actions of the day, or lack thereof, which speak volumes of the state of the Coyotes team these days.
And his humor wasn’t all that bad either.
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Maloney has never backed away from a deal that’s made sense to the long-term health of the franchise. Last week, he jumped at the opportunity to land second line center Antoine Vermette
from Columbus. The former Blue Jackets player has fit beautifully on the team’s second line, centering team captain Shane Doan
and Lauri Korpikoski
while providing the squad with another forward that’s proficient in the face-off circle. In many ways, Maloney’s deadline day was last Wednesday when he made the deal, which without question helped the team sweep its two-game roadie through Alberta.
The Vermette deal is typical of a team that often values character as much as talent, where fit within the group often outweighs personal statistics.
So when league general managers started burning up his cell phone, Maloney listened, but ultimately said no thanks, and for good reason. He likes his roster. He likes the current mix. He likes the chemistry inside the locker room. And he must love the fact they’ve been one of the hottest acts in the NHL during February.
And even though trades are often made with an eye towards the future, one could argue Maloney saying no to deals that were on the table also had an eye towards the future.
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That’s because the team’s “sick bay” is starting to look better. Defensemen Rostislav Klesla
and David Schlemko
are getting closer to returning to the lineup. Both have been skating for the past couple of days and continue to progress. In their absence, youngsters Chris Summers
and Michael Stone
have played admirably, so much so that Maloney felt it unnecessary to scoop up a blueline rental for the stretch drive. Center Kyle Chipchura
should be back on skates in the next few days while right wing Gilbert Brule
is getting better by the day and is expected to play again prior to the end of the regular season.
So the hockey brass patiently listened to offers, but ultimately took a pass. They did so because they could and because it made sense.
Deadline trades are often deals of panic that can be disruptive to the long-term health and viability of the team on the ice. The Coyotes are aware of the dangers and have no interest in jumping in.
It’s just not in the DNA of an organization that prides itself on a pack mentality.