Prior to their loss to Winnipeg on Tuesday night, the Coyotes last played on December 16th of 2021. Due to COVID, they had five of their last six games postponed and went 17 days without a game.
Despite surrendering a scary amount of shots (49) and being beat on the vast majority of the game stats - except for giveaways, where AZ had 11 to the Jets’ 14 - I thought the Yotes played really well. Especially when you take into consideration the gap between games. I saw a lot of teams come back after a COVID pause and look pretty out of sorts for the first game or two as they got back up to speed.
I’ll be honest, even though they have had their struggles as of late and with a surprising coaching change, I sort of expected the Jets to steamroll the Coyotes. The fact that the Yotes stayed with them and kept the score at 2-1 into the dying minute of the third period (where the Jets scored an empty-netter), is certainly a positive takeaway from the loss.
And so Arizona looks to carry that positive note over when a fellow-struggling team in the Chicago Blackhawks arrives at Gila River Arena tonight.
It’s the old ‘Battle of the Central Division Basement Dwellers’ when these two teams face-off.
There’s a handful of fanbases who know how the Coyotes feel and the Blackhawks’ fans are definitely one of them. While no one expected them to win the Cup, they made some sneaky good moves in the off-season with some pickups that certainly had you thinking they would be far more competitive than they have been.
But when the season started, they came out flat. Flatter than flat, actually. Their play was miserable and very disappointing considering the excitement there was heading into the season. However, they have managed to right the ship a bit since relieving head coach Jeremy Colliton of his duties a couple months back and promoting Derek King to interim head coach.
Under King, the Hawks have been noticeably more competitive, staying in games, battling back, etc. (especially when MAF is in net), but they’re a far cry from climbing back into any kind of race. And their inconsistencies were on display post-COVID break when they lost by a score of 6-1 to the Preds, 5-1 to the Flames, yet, kept pace with the Avs before eventually losing in OT by a score of 4-3 on Tuesday night.
What makes tonight’s game particularly interesting is that both teams will be sellers and both have some really nice pieces to deal.
For the Hawks, their biggest piece is certainly Marc-Andre Fleury. And there’s always the Kane and Toews rumors. Add to that, many believe former-Coyote Dylan Strome will be moved out, along with winger Dominick Kubalik. In fact, Chicago has already started making some moves, sending Alex Nylander to Pittsburgh for Sam Lafferty.
Jakob Chychrun remains the cash cow for Arizona if they decide to pull the trigger and move him. While no one really knows what’s being discussed (besides the guys behind closed doors and the insiders that get the scoop), I did see the below rumor yesterday. While these guys are typically pretty accurate, keep in mind that it is just a rumor:
I think the “Eichel-like return” that’s described might be a bit high - and that’s coming from a Chychrun fan.
The reason I think that is because I’m not sure a team will send a “higher-end” roster player (though I wouldn’t mind if they did) to Arizona if they’re already sending those other gems that the Coyotes need for rebuilding. I would image a higher-end player would be younger, and since the Yotes are probably a few years away from being competitive, they would want that younger guy to grow with the rebuild, and I would think teams would want to hang on to a young, talented piece like that. But, hey, if you need defense and can afford to sacrifice a young, high-end guy to get Chychrun for your team, both sides will benefit.
I think a top prospect and some picks is more likely. Or even a couple legit prospects and some picks. But there’s also a good chance I’m way off because I am terrible at predicting and/or understanding the wheeling and dealing that goes into trades, cap space/contracts, etc…
The Yotes’ brass just has to play this one really carefully, which they know, because Chychrun is probably their best shot at getting a haul and speeding up this rebuild if they choose to move him.
They can also choose to keep him around. At only 23, he could be a cornerstone for this franchise for a long time to come. And if they go that route, they’ll need to figure out how to move some other guys because the Coyotes have been working at getting rid of big contracts in order to recoup picks and prospects.
So far, they have 12 picks in the 2022 draft. This includes three first-round picks and five second-round picks. In a nutshell, Arizona has eight of the first 64 picks in the draft - not too shabby. They also have some picks in the 2023 and 2024 drafts they have obtained via trades.
The Yotes have a big mix of RFA and UFA guys coming at the end of the 2022-23 season
Barrett Hayton (ELC)
There are some bigger money contracts in that list and one not listed in Andrew Ladd. What I think will most likely happen is that the Coyotes will try to move high-salaries, but since they don’t want to lose picks/prospects as sweeteners in the deals, I think they’ll end up throwing in other rostered guys and/or retain salary.
Here’s who I see them wanting to move but might have trouble due to money/age/declining skill:
Kessel - $6.8M
Eriksson - $6M
Ladd - $5.5M (next two seasons)
Stralman - $5.5M
I can’t see many teams wanting to take on any of those contracts as rentals (not sure how many would even resign them) without money being retained and/or some sweeteners involved.
There are certainly more “attractive” players on this roster that teams would be interested in and that I’m sure the Coyotes are listening to offers on, but the above are the guys/contracts that I think are important to move and at least get something for your rebuild (if you can) instead of just letting them walk when their time is up. Teams get desperate as the playoffs approach and are willing to make deals. For example, I could see someone wanting the services of Kessel for forward depth come the deadline. A change of scenery could bode well for him and the team that gets him. Who knows?
In a way, Arizona kind of has things easy. Maybe not “easy”, but they have a very clear goal: the rebuild. With that in mind, they know they’re not going anywhere and so the focus becomes trying to move guys out for deals that make sense and hopefully pay off for this team’s future.
Should be interesting to see what they do…
Wedgewood’s New Mask
What do you guys think of Wedgewood’s new mask? Looks pretty sweet to me. Can’t wait to see it with the full-setup.
Bark At The Moon!