Six weeks ago, Drake Caggiula and his fiancé added to their family. On Monday, the Coyotes added to their own.
General Manager Bill Armstrong announced the signing of Caggiula, 26, to a one-year contract. He is the latest block added to what the Coyotes are building for 2020-21.
Caggiula spent his off-season at home in Ontario, where along with skating and training five-seven days per week, he learned a few new valuable family skills.
"I've learned how to change diapers," said Caggiula, the father of a new baby boy.
Caggiula is happy to have a new deal and a new place to call home.
"Finding a new home and a new job, and to still be able to play the game of hockey that I love -- it's obviously a great thing for myself and my family," Caggiula said. "I'm looking forward to a new opportunity and joining an organization with a lot of talented and young players to grow with. I'm very excited."
Caggiula played the previous two seasons with Chicago. He has 76 points (41G, 35A) in his four-year, 222-game NHL career. He enters his fifth NHL season with a re-tooled Coyotes roster. Training camp looms January 3.
"He's just a competitor," Armstrong said Monday. "We've added another competitive player that can play many different roles. He can jump up on your first or second line, or be a spark-plug on your third or fourth (line). He can play on the left or right side. So, we're very excited about him."
The Pickering, Ontario, native enjoyed a stellar collegiate career, including a National Championship in 2016 with the University of North Dakota. Caggiula was named the Most Outstanding Player of the 2016 NCAA Tournament and selected to the National Collegiate Hockey Conference All-Star Team.
Coyotes forward Nick Schmaltz was a teammate on that championship team. "They had some great chemistry at UND when they won that National Championship together," Armstrong said.
The two were roommates that season.
"Playing with Nicky every day, seeing his skill level and watching what he brings to the table was pretty fun to watch," Caggiula said. "Learning from him, and also trying to teach him some of my ideas about the game. Collaborating together."
Schmaltz led the Coyotes in points (45) and assists (34) in 2019-20.
"I'm looking forward to playing with him again," Caggiula said. "We had a blast playing together. We're looking forward to reuniting."
As far as his style of play and the type of hockey the Coyotes are looking to develop, Caggiula said, "It's a good fit." He leaned on Schmaltz for reassurance.
"I had some conversations with Schmaltzy before I signed the deal to kind of confirm with him what he thought," Caggiula said. "He said I'd be a good fit in the organization with the way I played."
Caggiula and his Blackhawks teammates watched the Coyotes in the Edmonton bubble, during the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs. He liked what we saw.
"They play a hard and aggressive game," he said. "They play a 200-foot game. It's something that I take pride in, playing in all three areas of the ice. There's obviously a ton of talented players. From guys like (Phil) Kessel down to younger players like (Clayton) Keller, Schmaltz, (Lawson) Crouse and (Christian) Dvorak, all these players. There are tons of talented players on the team, and I'm looking forward to being a part of that. It's a younger crew. Being able to grow with some of these players and have the opportunity to step into this lineup and play a style of hockey that suits my style is going to be really good for me."
Injuries have shortened Caggiula's previous two seasons. He has played 95 games since the start of 2018-19.
"Well, the way I play the game of hockey, I'm going to get some bumps and bruises along the way," he said. "Especially with the size that I am. That's part of the territory of being a 5' 9" player that plays on the edge."
He says he is healthy now.
"That's part of my game, playing on the edge and getting under guys' skin," Caggiula said. "I feel good. I feel confident that my body is going to hold up. I've worked really hard this summer to mend all the bumps and bruises from last year. I've tried to get my body in the best shape possible for this season."
The upcoming 56-game regular-season will often feature back-to-back match-ups. Caggiula related that to the standard college hockey schedule.
"It's a short season," he said. "Every game is important. Everybody's got to come out of the gates running, because if you fall behind the 8-ball early, there's not a lot of time to catch up. You're going to feel that playoff atmosphere right from the get-go, and the teams that are prepared to go early on are probably the teams that are going to be there at the end of the year.
"The short season is going to have that playoff mentality right from the start. Playing back-to-backs against the same team, that's definitely a good opportunity to create some more rivalries. You're playing teams six, seven, eight times a year, and that's only going to add fuel to the fire. So, it's going to be a hard-fought season all year long. I think it's going to be good for the game. Especially with the short season, we have to get off to a good start."
Caggiula hopes to be dressed to the "nines" in Arizona.
"I always wore No. 9 growing up," he said. "When I got to Edmonton, No. 9 was obviously retired, and same in Chicago. Nineteen would always be my second choice, but No. 19 was taken in both Edmonton and Chicago. In Edmonton, they offered to flip it (19) around to 91, and I stuck with it in Chicago. I think that's what I'm going to stick with in Arizona, as well."
Caggiula is still in Ontario with his family. He plans to arrive in Arizona this weekend, and hopefully join voluntary team skates shortly thereafter. While living arrangement may be tricky on such a short timeline, Caggiula just might have to rely on Schmaltz for temporary housing.
"I hear he's bought a nice home there," Caggiula said. "So, maybe he'll let me stay there."
Lead Photo Credit: Andre Ringuette - NHLI via Getty Images // Second Photo Credit: Elsa - Getty Images // Third Photo Credit: Kevin Sousa - NHLI via Getty Images // Fourth Photo Credit: Andy Devlin - NHLI via Getty Images // Footer Photo Credit: Bill Smith - NHLI via Getty Images