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Maloney will keep Coyotes on track at deadline

by Dan Rosen

Don Maloney doesn't want to ruin his team's chemistry during the trade deadline.
NAPLES, Fla. -- For the last two months, Phoenix Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney has marveled at his team's surprising surge toward playoff contention, all the while maintaining normal expectations for a group that probably is far exceeding them.

Which is why Coyotes fans need to remember that just because their team is closer to the top eight in the Western Conference than they could have anticipated at this point of the season, don't expect Maloney to tinker too much come Tuesday's NHL trade deadline, even if one veteran player is all that separates the Coyotes from their first playoff berth since 2002.

"I've seen it go the other way too many times, that when you're close, you throw out a prospect and a pick for a 30-year-old guy that may or may not push us over the hump," Maloney told "Quite frankly, we did it in New York for 10 years and it never pushed us over the hump."

Maloney, who spent the previous 10 seasons as a member of the Rangers' front office, went as far as calling the possibility of acquiring a big name at the trading deadline "fool's gold."

During Maloney's tenure, the Rangers often were big players at the deadline, and prior to the salary-cap era always were some of the biggest spenders in the League. Still, the Rangers went seven straight seasons without making the playoffs before snapping the streak in 2006.

"In the effort to perpetually get to the playoffs and win you can throw out those picks," Maloney said. "Then you don't get there, and now you don't have the picks, and you don't have the players coming and it's just a downward cycle. It just doesn't work."

Maloney was hired in Phoenix this summer to start a youth movement, so he can't just go mortgaging the future now and risk a minimal reward in return. Perhaps more importantly, he likes the makeup of his team and believes it's a playoff contender the way it's presently constructed.

Despite its lack of experience, depth and superstar front-line scorer, Phoenix is two points shy of a playoff berth today. Its 66 points is one better than St. Louis, but two fewer than Vancouver and Calgary.

Maloney worries that augmenting the Coyotes with a major deadline acquisition could ruin the obvious chemistry coach Wayne Gretzky's club already has going for it.

"This is all a bonus for me because I know we're going to be better because our young players are playing. It's a further reason why I really resist bringing somebody in," Maloney said. "I don't care who it is, what position. If we bring in a top two line centerman, that's pushing somebody down, whether it's a (Martin) Hanzal, whether it's (Peter) Mueller, whether it's (Daniel) Carcillo; that ice time is cut and I don't want that.

"The only way we're going to have success is if our younger players experience a playoff run, which is exactly what we're doing right now. Underneath all that we still have some younger players in our system coming down the road that will only make us better."

Since Phoenix hasn't made the playoffs in six years, one could assume Maloney's temptation to add depth on the blue line or firepower up front at the deadline by subtracting a prospect or a draft pick could become too enticing to ignore, especially if his phone keeps ringing until 3 p.m. ET Tuesday.

Avoiding an itchy trigger finger over the next couple days very well could be Maloney's biggest challenge at the trading deadline.

"We sold our fan base and we sold our team that this is what we are and this is how we're going," Maloney said. "We're not going to deviate from this. So, quite frankly, unless something absolutely fell into our laps that didn't cost us any sort of young asset, we're just not going to go that route. That's not to say we're not talking and trying to improve our club. We certainly are, but we're not one of those teams (in the mix for a high-profile player)."

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