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Team Reset

Coyotes hope Kessel fills role as goal-scorer

Soderberg also being counted on to help end seven-year playoff drought

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / Deputy Managing Editor

After the NHL Draft, free agency and other offseason moves, is taking a look at where each team stands. Today, the Arizona Coyotes:

Finding more goals was the offseason plan for the Arizona Coyotes. Enter Phil Kessel.

The Coyotes, who scored 209 goals last season, tied for the third-fewest in the NHL, acquired Kessel in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins for forward Alex Galchenyuk and defenseman prospect Pierre-Olivier Joseph on June 29. Arizona also received a fourth-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft and minor league defenseman Dane Birks.


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Kessel has scored at least 20 goals in 11 straight seasons, and at least 30 six times in that span. The last player to score at least 30 goals for the Coyotes was Radim Vrbata in 2011-12 (35).

"We felt we needed a lead horse up front, a guy who's produced offensively consistently," Coyotes general manager John Chayka said. "We were looking for a veteran player who has a history of doing it. We have a lot of players who have a lot upside and potential, but we needed a player who could be a 20- or hopefully 30-goal scorer."

Kessel said he likes the players the Coyotes have and is looking forward to making the same kind of impact he did with the Penguins, when he helped them win the Stanley Cup in 2016 and 2017, his first two seasons in Pittsburgh.

He said he's also looking forward to being reunited with coach Rick Tocchet, who was an assistant in Pittsburgh for those two Stanley Cup championships.

"He's a friend of mine," Kessel said. "I think he's a great coach, a good person, and I want to help him succeed and do great things in [Arizona]. I'm looking forward to it and I'm excited that he's going to be my coach."

Video: Chayka on Coyotes being active, Kessel acquisition

The Coyotes also added to their top nine forwards by acquiring Carl Soderberg in a trade with the Colorado Avalanche on June 25. He scored an NHL career-high 23 goals in 82 games last season and could join Derek Stepan and Nick Schmaltz to give the Coyotes depth at center, or play on the wing higher in the lineup.

"He's a horse, so to get a guy like that who's durable, who's productive, who plays hard minutes through the middle of the ice, for us it was an opportunity to make ourselves a better team than we were," Chayka said.

Durability and dependability were two attributes the Coyotes were looking to improve after they lost 380 man-games because of injury last season. Kessel has played every game in each of the past nine seasons (774 straight), and Soderberg has played at least 80 games in four of the past five seasons.

"Durability's an asset, last year taught us that," Chayka said. "Durability and depth. If we'd had more of that last year, we would've been in the playoffs."

Here is what the Coyotes look like today:


Key arrivals

Phil Kessel, F: The 31-year-old should help scoring at 5-on-5 and on the power play. His 24 goals with the man-advantage the past two seasons are tied for ninth in the NHL. ... Carl Soderberg, F: The 33-year-old had 49 points last season, his second-highest total in seven NHL seasons.

Video: Kessel eager to get started after trade to Coyotes


Key departures

Alex Galchenyuk, F: The 25-year-old tied for the Coyotes lead with 19 goals in his only season with Arizona after being traded by the Montreal Canadiens. ... Nick Cousins, F: He had an NHL career-high 27 points (seven goals, 20 assists) last season, but the 25-year-old was not tendered a qualifying offer and became an unrestricted free agent. He signed a one-year contract with the Canadiens on July 5. ... Kevin Connauton, D: The 29-year-old had eight points (one goal, seven assists) and averaged 18:21 of ice time in 50 games. He was part of the trade to the Avalanche for Soderberg. ... Josh Archibald, F: The 26-year-old had an NHL career high in goals (12), assists (10) and points (22) in 68 games but was not tendered a qualifying offer and became an unrestricted free agent. ... Richard Panik, F: The 28-year-old signed a four-year contract with the Washington Capitals on July 1 after he had 33 points (14 goals, 19 assists) in 75 games.


On the cusp

Barrett Hayton, F: Selected with the No. 5 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, the 19-year-old had 66 points (26 goals, 40 assists) in 39 games with Sault Ste. Marie of the Ontario Hockey League last season and should push for a top-nine spot during training camp. … Nate Schnarr, F: The 20-year-old will push for a top-nine spot after he led Guelph of the OHL with 102 points (34 goals, 68 assists) in 65 games.


What they still need

A No. 1 center. Stepan is a good player, but not the kind of dynamic offensive presence seen on other teams. Could it be Schmaltz? He averaged 2.74 points per 60 minutes in 17 games with the Coyotes before sustaining a season-ending lower-body injury on Dec. 30. The potential of playing a full season with Kessel or Clayton Keller on his line could increase that number.

Video: ARI@TBL: Keller buries one-timer from the slot


Fantasy focus

The Coyotes have not had a 75-point player since Ray Whitney in 2011-12 (77) nor an 80-point player since Keith Tkachuk in 1996-97 (86). Kessel, a four-time 80-point scorer with two teams, brings that type of ceiling to the top line with forwards Keller and Schmaltz and first power play with defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. The Coyotes had numerous fantasy bounce-back candidates, either from injuries or performance trends, prior to the Kessel trade, and now need to be taken even more seriously in mid-to-late rounds. -- Pete Jensen


Projected lineup

Clayton Keller -- Nick Schmaltz -- Phil Kessel

Carl Soderberg -- Derek Stepan -- Lawson Crouse

Michael Grabner -- Brad Richardson -- Vinnie Hinostroza

Barrett Hayton -- Christian Dvorak -- Conor Garland

Oliver Ekman-Larsson -- Jason Demers

Alex Goligoski -- Niklas Hjalmarsson

Jakob Chychrun -- Jordan Oesterle

Antti Raanta

Darcy Kuemper


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