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Coyotes will take disciplined approach in free agency

Won't disrupt core group that just missed playoffs, GM Chayka says

by Alan Robinson / Correspondent

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Coyotes are determined not to disrupt their core group that barely missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season during the NHL free agent signing period that begins July 1, general manager John Chayka said Friday.

"I wouldn't say I want to be disciplined. I will say I will be disciplined," Chayka said following a town hall meeting with fans. "We're going to have our (economic) parameters, and if it matches, it matches. If it doesn't, we'll find another player. I hate to be as blunt about it as that, but we're not going to put ourselves in a bad spot long term here."

Despite not having a 20-goal scorer or a 50-point scorer, the Coyotes finished four points out of the second wild card in the Western Conference. They believe that getting increased production from some key young players, such as forwards Clayton Keller, 20, and Alex Galchenyuk, 25, would lessen the need for what an expensive free agent might add.


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"We've done too much to our foundation that we're not going to put ourselves in a position to sign a player who is not as productive long term and will cost us one of our young players we've developed," Chayka said. "We'll exhaust all options in free agency, and if it doesn't work out, we'll look to improve our team via trade."

Chayka said he is willing to listen to offers for almost anyone on the Coyotes roster, but said, "We have a lot of good young players, we have a lot of good young players on valuable contracts, we have good veteran players at premium positions. It's not like we have our whole team up for auction."

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The Coyotes added offense by acquiring forward Carl Soderberg, who scored 23 goals for with the Colorado Avalanche this season, in a trade Tuesday for defenseman Kevin Connauton and a third-round pick in 2020 NHL Draft.

"I wouldn't say I'm satisfied with my group, but we've got a lot of good things going for us … we've got as good of goaltending as there is out there (with Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta), our defense has even more upside and, with the addition of Soderberg, we've got elite centermen," Chayka said.

"We've got some young players up front that are going to need to produce more to take that next step, and if we can support that (via free agency or trades) we will, but the market will dictate that to an extent."

Chayka also said Raanta and forward Nick Schmaltz, each of whom had lengthy lower-body injury layoffs this season, likely would have been ready to play had the Coyotes reached the playoffs. Raanta and Schmaltz ended rehabilitation several months ago and have shifted into to a training mode for the 2019-20 season, Chayka said. Raanta last played Nov. 27 and Schmaltz last played Dec. 30. 

Coyotes president and CEO Ahron Cohen said they are actively lobbying the NHL to play several games in Sweden. Coyotes captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson is from Sweden, as are Niklas Hjalmarsson, Soderberg and Victor Soderstrom, the No. 11 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.

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