From locking up Lawson Crouse and Clayton Keller to long-term contracts, to the acquisition of Phil Kessel , the Arizona Coyotes made a number of notable moves last summer.
But one move that didn't receive quite as much attention is proving to be just as important. On June 25, General Manager John Chayka made his first major transaction of the summer and acquired defenseman Carl Soderberg in a trade with the Colorado Avalanche.
And while Chayka's bold moves later in the summer overshadowed Soderberg's arrival in Arizona, that move is shining through during the thick of the regular season as the native of Malmo, Sweden, is answering the call to provide scoring depth and veteran leadership on a team that relies on contributions up and down its roster.
"You can never have enough big, 200-foot center men that can play on both special teams and is known as a good veteran guy," Chayka noted. "We had watched him over a number of years. Because he's a veteran guy you know his history and when you have an opportunity to acquire a guy like that we thought that, regardless of what else we had, it was a good fit, and that's certainly been the case.
"At the end of the day it's about winning hockey games," he added. "He's a guy that's obviously substance over style, but I think in trying to win hockey games he plays a premium position. He does a lot of things that are tough to see if you're just a fan watching the game, but when you really break it down and understand how you're driving value, I think he's a guy that's really helped us this year and it wasn't a splash necessarily in the summer, but we were adamant that it was something that we had to do if we want to win."
That "history" that Chayka speaks of is one of Soderberg being a reliable and steady player throughout his eight-year NHL career, which began in 2012 with Boston, where he notched 94 points (29-65-94) over the course of 161 regular season games.
"I've been playing kind of between the top six and bottom six for my whole career in the NHL," Soderberg explained. "In Boston, I was playing on the third line, but I still got about 15 minutes of ice time a game. I've always been consistent to produce and helping teams score and mostly playing with bottom six forwards in my career."
Soderberg was traded to Colorado in June 2015, and much how he did in Boston, he quickly established himself as a steady, reliable member of the Avalanche as he spent four seasons there, scoring 151 points (57-94-151) in 321 regular season contests.
And just over halfway through his first season with the Coyotes, there's been virtually no drop off in Soderberg's game despite the change of scenery. Through 49 regular season contests, he ranks sixth on the team in scoring with 26 points (13-13-26) and is averaging 16:20 of ice time. He's also logged three different point streaks of at least three games and had a career-high three-point game in Columbus on December 3, something he did just seven times previously before this season.
These are all very valuable numbers for a player who is asked to provide secondary scoring and occasionally bolster the team's corps of bottom six forwards. Soderberg says one of the reasons why the transition has seemed so seamless is because the makeup of the Coyotes is very similar to that of Colorado, where they try to roll four productive lines and ask for contributions from every corner of the dressing room.
"I played with some sneaky, skilled bottom six forwards (in Colorado), we had good lines there and here it's the same," Soderberg said. "We have 12 good forwards and it doesn't really matter who you play with, we're all productive.
"I've been pretty consistent and a top five scorer on all the teams I've been on," Soderberg added. "Even if I'm in a bottom six role, I've been top five in scoring. That's what I should do, that's why I'm here. This team had some trouble scoring last year and they still have some pretty good, young forwards that are developing and producing a little bit more this year, and now we have Kessel and (Taylor) Hall, so we're a good group."
Before Soderberg arrived in Arizona, Coyotes fans might best remember him as being one of the supporting cast members to a Colorado club that held off a Coyotes late-season push for the playoffs last spring, which also highlights his other important asset-veteran presence and postseason experience, something that will be valuable to the Coyotes in the coming months as teams vying for a spot in this year's postseason make a big push to get in.
"I think we're an experienced team. I think we have a lot of experienced guys," noted Soderberg, who has 10 points (1-9-10) in 32 career NHL playoff games, which includes 12 games from Colorado's playoff run last season. "I think we should be one of the teams that's going to push hard. We can be that team that's going to play hard and win hockey games, too. We shouldn't be afraid of anyone else, we can get hot."
Chayka adds that he expects Soderberg will play a key role in the second half of the season for the Coyotes, both on and off the scoresheet.
"He's been though a lot of the ups and downs of a season and he's a steady personality," Chayka said. "I think he's got a leadership in his own way, he's helped out our young guys a lot and he's a good person. Again, those are things that fans might not see, but they're very valuable things and we're lucky to have him, it was a great opportunity to acquire a player like that and he's come in and done a great job and we expect him to have a big second half."