EDITOR'S NOTE: NHL.com is providing in-depth roster, prospect and fantasy analysis for each of its 30 teams throughout August. Today, the Arizona Coyotes.
The Arizona Coyotes hired John Chayka as the youngest general manager in major league sports history, at 26 years old, on May 5.
At his introductory press conference, Chayka, now 27, vowed that the Coyotes would do everything they could to become a winner. They started by acquiring a top-four defenseman, Alex Goligoski, in a trade with the Dallas Stars on June 16, two weeks before he was to become an unrestricted free agent, then signed him to a five-year contract.
|Anthony LeBlanc, Gary Drummond, John Chayka and Dave Tippett. Photo by Norm Hall. |
Arizona acquired center Pavel Datsyuk (who signed in the Kontinental Hockey League) from the Detroit Red Wings in a trade at the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24 that allowed them to move up and select defenseman Jakob Chychrun with the No. 16 pick, their second selection in the first round after taking forward Clayton Keller at No. 7. The next day, the Coyotes traded a second-round pick (No. 37) to the Tampa Bay Lightning for defenseman Anthony DeAngelo, the No. 19 pick of the 2014 draft, fortifying their defensive depth.
Free agent left wing Jamie McGinn signed a three-year contract with Arizona on July 1, and free agent defenseman Luke Schenn signed a two-year contract on July 23.
Defensemen Connor Murphy and Michael Stone each agreed to a contract to remain with the Coyotes. Murphy signed for six years. Stone, coming off major knee surgery, got a one-year contract to avoid an arbitration hearing.
The Coyotes signed 39-year-old captain Shane Doan to a one-year, incentive-laden contract. Doan has spent his entire 20-season NHL career with the franchise and is its leader in games played (1,466), goals (396) and points (945).
"I get asked often about the loyalty I feel towards this organization," Doan said July 12 after signing his contract. "I get asked why I've turned down other opportunities so that I can keep playing hockey in what some people characterize as not an ideal situation. I've already given plenty of examples of why I love it here, but on a basic level, my biggest reason for wanting to stick around all these years is simple: The organization drafted me to win a Stanley Cup, and I still plan to deliver on my end of the bargain."
The Coyotes likely aren't finished making moves this off-season and are hoping to add either a top-four or top-six defenseman before training camp.
"There are still lots of areas to improve," Chayka said. "We have a little logjam right now (on defense), but Michael Stone is injured to start the year (with an October return expected), and that creates a little flexibility."
|Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Photo by Norm Hall. |
The core of Arizona's defense is secure; Goligoski, Murphy and all-star Oliver Ekman-Larsson each is signed for at least the next three seasons. Ekman-Larsson was seventh among NHL defensemen in scoring last season with 55 points (21 goals, 34 assists) and is now surrounded by plenty of talent on the Coyotes' blue line.
"I think we are really strong defensively," Stone said. "I'm excited about the guys that we have. I'd love to play with a guy like Goligoski and be on that right side paired with him. I think he only makes the team better, and hopefully I can complement him. It's just a really exciting time for the whole back end."
Head Coach Dave Tippett, now also the executive vice president of hockey operations after signing a five-year contract, has more say in shaping the roster to fit his coaching style and vision. Arizona has more size on defense, quickness to defend in a faster game, and the ability to transition to offense with a strong first pass.
McGinn had 22 goals in 84 games with the Colorado Avalanche and Buffalo Sabres last season. He could be put on a line with center Brad Richardson, who is coming off an NHL career-best 31 points (11 goals, 20 assists), and Doan, who led the Coyotes with 28 goals.
The Coyotes bought out the final year of center Antoine Vermette's contract on Aug. 1, veteran defenseman Nicklas Grossmann and forwards Kyle Chipchura, Boyd Gordon, Steve Downie, and Alex Tanguay were not re-signed, and center Joe Vitale went to the Red Wings in the Datsyuk trade.
|Mike Smith. Photo by Norm Hall. |
Some changes among the forwards will come from within. After rookies Max Domi and Anthony Duclair combined for 38 goals last season, the Coyotes would like to see two of their top forward prospects, Dylan Strome, the No. 3 pick in the 2015 draft, and Christian Dvorak, the No. 58 pick in the 2014 draft, have the same success.
After a second straight 100-plus point season with Erie of the Ontario Hockey League, Strome, 19, is on track to center one of the top two lines now that Vermette is gone. Dvorak, 20, also has an opportunity to land on the NHL roster after backing up an impressive Memorial Cup championship as captain of London of the OHL with a solid showing at Coyotes development camp.
Restricted free agent forward Tobias Rieder, who had 14 goals and 37 points in his second NHL season, remains unsigned. Rieder's agent said he could leave to play in the KHL, but Chayka hasn't budged on a player who had four goals in the final 40 games last season and was minus-21.
The Coyotes signed goaltender Louis Domingue to a two-year contract after he was 15-18-5 with a 2.75 goals-against average and .912 save percentage as a rookie. He will be the fifth opening-night backup to veteran Mike Smith over the past five seasons. Smith, who is entering the fourth season of a six-year contract, has struggled with injuries and inconsistency but remains the No. 1 goalie. He was 15-13-2 with a 2.63 GAA and .916 save percentage in 32 starts last season.