General Manager Don Maloney had a budget that he was given by the NHL when they took ownership last fall. He said going into this trade deadline that there was room for him to make some moves. Still, most observers have to be impressed with what Don was able to pull off at the deadline. The Coyotes needed veteran depth on the blue line: Don added Derek Morris
and Matthieu Schneider. They also needed someone who could provide scoring punch up front: Don acquired Wojtek Wolski and Lee Stempniak. The Coyotes also needed anyone that could boost their anemic power play: all four of these guys can help in that regard. Plus, Maloney added forward Petteri Nokelainen who will add depth in a checking and penalty-killing role.
Traded away at the deadline in 2009, the 31-year-old veteran right-hand shooting defenseman returns to the desert after stops with the Rangers and Bruins. I have a feeling that his experience of the past 12 months will make him a very motivated player coming back to the Coyotes. Mo is an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, he knows a lot of guys in the room and there’s a whole different feeling around this team now. He had 3-22-25 with the Bruins this season and brings his hard shot to a defense corps that leads the NHL in goals.
Wolski is a 24-year-old left-hand shooting forward that was a first-round pick (21st overall) of the Avs in 2004. He comes to Phoenix for Peter Mueller and Kevin Porter. Wolski has scored 71 goals in 302 NHL games (Mueller had 39 goals in 207 games) but he plays a totally different style than Mueller. Wolski is 6-3, 210 pounds and more of an explosive one-on-one type who will drive to the net and score goals in the dirty areas. At the time of the deal, Wolski was tops on the Avs with a plus-15 rating. He arrives with identical numbers as Coyotes’ leading scorer Shane Doan
: 17-30-47. Wolski should help the Coyotes’ power play. He’s a restricted free agent at the end of this season.
This acquisition is a bit of a roll of the dice but a risk worth taking, in my opinion. I asked Don Maloney about Schneider when the Canucks waived him earlier in the season and he told me there were internal discussions about picking up Schneider at that time. He’s 40, but his skill set is exactly what the Coyotes need: a defenseman who can move his feet, move the puck and get shots on net, especially on the power play. There’s more to like about Schneider: he brings championship experience as a Stanley Cup winner with the Canadiens in 1993 and he has familiarity with both Maloney (NYI 1994-96) and Head Coach Dave Tippett (LA 2000-02).
Stempniak is a 27-year-old right-hand shooting forward in his fifth season in the NHL after a four-year career at Dartmouth. He comes to the Coyotes from Toronto but scored a career-high 27 goals in his second NHL season as member of the St. Louis Blues. He is a versatile player that can play on the PP or PK. Stempniak becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season but only cost a minor league defenseman (Matt Jones) plus a fourth- and seventh-round pick.
This was the last deal of the day and involved the least known player of the group. Nokelainen has good size and a reputation for an excellent compete level. He’s another right hand shot that gives the coaching staff depth in the event of injuries and some options as far as line combinations. At age 24, Nokelainen joins his 4th NHL team with prior stops with the NYI, Boston and Anaheim.
At the end of the day, Don Maloney added five NHL players and gave up only two (Mueller and Anders Eriksson). And, the only money he added to next year’s payroll is the $950,000 owed to Nokelainen. The highest draft pick surrendered on the day was a fourth rounder (there were also a couple of conditional picks). Wolski, the most important acquisition of the day, is a restricted free agent so the Coyotes have control of his situation. The Coyotes are a better team by far today than they were yesterday and Maloney didn’t lose any flexibility in terms of building the team for next season.
I can’t wait until March 18 in Florida when we’ll get our first look at the “new look” Phoenix Coyotes on Fox Sports Arizona!