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It’s dangerous to speak in absolutes when it comes to trades in the NHL.
For example: while Dion Phaneuf‘s contract is onerous, that deal has been far from impossible to move. That monster’s been traded twice, and very well could be moved again before it runs out after 2020-21.
So, yes, there may be a scenario where trading Max Domi on or before Feb. 26 actually benefits the Arizona Coyotes enough to do it, but it would almost certainly be smarter to wait. You know, if he’s even worth trading at all.
(Note: The Coyotes shopping him – though not necessarily aggressively – has been reported by multiple outlets, including Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman this past weekend.)
Let’s discuss why this is a terrible time to trade Domi.
There’s no doubt that this has been a terrible season for Domi, and honestly, the past two seasons provide some reason for concern.
During a fabulous rookie season, Domi meshed well with Anthony Duclair, scoring 18 goals and 52 points in 81 games back in 2015-16. Since then, his shooting percentage has taken a terrifying nosedive:
2015-16: 18 goals on 156 shots on goal for an 11.5 shooting percentage.
2016-17: nine goals on 108 SOG in 59 games, 8.3 shooting percentage.
So far in 2017-18: four goals on 111 SOG in 57 games, 3.6 shooting percentage.
Recent history shows that teams may come to regret trading a promising young player on an unusual cold streak.
One prescient example is Jordan Eberle, and his struggles weren’t as extreme during his final season with the Edmonton Oilers. Eberle’s shooting percentage average overall with the Oilers was 13.4 percent, yet in 2016-17, it dipped to 9.6. The postseason was where things really plummeted: Eberle managed zero goals and two assists during that 13-game run, coming up empty on 22 SOG.
That’s a distressing run, especially for a $6 million player on a team that felt it was on the verge of contention like the Oilers.
Even if the Oilers wanted to trade Eberle in his normal form, they should have waited for a most likely return to his typical work. You don’t need to dig deep to see that Eberle has been fantastic for the Islanders, while Ryan Strome has been … well, Ryan Strome for the Oilers.
That’s the risk here with Domi. Maybe he’s a guy who will struggle to score at the NHL level, but do you really want to sell when his value couldn’t sink any lower? How much of a bummer would it be to see Arizona get a possibly squalid return after a middling Anthony Duclair trade? Getting very little for two promising forwards would be a real blow, especially since the Coyotes lack much in scoring punch beyond Clayton Keller and a few others beyond that.
Especially, you know, with Arizona’s own Strome (Dylan Strome) standing as something of a puzzle.
If that wasn’t enough …
There are some ancillary factors that make a panic trade even scarier.
At least in the case of the Oilers, Eberle was a pricey consideration for a team that would eventually need to make some cap decisions. The money concern actually could put a positive spin on Domi’s struggles.
Right now, Domi is a pending RFA whose rookie contract is about to expire. A budget team could really benefit from offering the 12th pick of the 2013 NHL Draft serious term in exchange for a deal with a low cap hit. In such a scenario, the Coyotes could conceivably either:
A) get a top-six forward at a bargain rate, with his numbers likely to rebound
B) retain a young player for a reasonable cap hit, so they can wait and trade him at a more optimal time even if they’re not sold on him.
There’s also the scenario in which the Coyotes hand Domi a shorter “bridge” contract, which would open the door for Domi to prove himself or at least drive his trade value back up.
Wasted development and time
Frankly, let’s also consider Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
If the Coyotes want to use the 2018-19 season to try to convince “OEL” to re-sign (seemingly a long shot now, but a year can make a big difference), then a resurgent Domi could help. Really, would Ekman-Larsson want to see Domi turn into not-yet-developed assets, which would be the most likely return?
Even beyond OEL, it’s clear from the Coyotes’ summer of moves that they’re growing tired of “rebuild mode.” Their aggressive moves didn’t work out, but how many times do you want to go back to the starting line?
A Domi extension, especially an affordable one, could be part of the solution in Arizona.
Again, there’s always a chance that a contending team believes in Domi enough to give up a robust offer.
It’s more realistic to imagine a team trying to take advantage of Domi’s cold streak, which would almost certainly make for a weak return. The Coyotes are justified in “selling” to some extent during the deadline, although they don’t exactly boast a lot of veterans to auction off. Even if they eventually decide to trade Domi, now is almost certainly not the best time to do so.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.