Coyotes head into 2021-22 season with overhauled roster

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GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Arizona Coyotes opted to make a change in leadership after failing to make the playoffs again, firing coach Rick Tocchet and replacing him with André Tourigny.

The changes were just the beginning of a busy offseason.

Captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson is no longer in the desert. Neither is high-scoring wing Conor Garland. All three goalies from last season are with other teams.

With a slew of new faces, the Coyotes are hoping to reshape a franchise that’s been to the playoffs just once in the past nine years.

“There isn’t too many teams in the history of the NHL that have had this much turnover in a year,” Coyotes forward Christian Fischer said. “I don’t know if expansion teams have.”

Fischer is part of a small core of returning players that includes Phil Kessel, Clayton Keller, Jakob Chychrun, Lawson Crouse and Nick Schmaltz. The rest of the roster is primarily young players trying to make a name for themselves and players who were on other teams a year ago.

Playing in a new, arguably tougher division, the Coyotes have been projected by some to finish worse than their 24-26-6 record in the abbreviated 2020-21 season.

“Maybe it lights a fire under some of our butts,” Crouse said. “Teams that are going to take us for granted, and think that it’s going to be an easy night, I think they’re in for a lesson real quick.”

NEW GOALIES

The Coyotes had relied on Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta the past few years, with Adin Hill filling in when one of them inevitably got hurt.

All three are now gone, replaced by Carter Hutton and Josef Korenar.

Hutton figures to be Arizona’s No. 1 goalie and brings plenty of experience with him. The 35-year-old has played eight NHL seasons with four teams, most recently Buffalo. He’s been primarily a backup, but did go 20-11-4 in 40 games with Nashville in 2013-14.

The 23-year-old Korenar played 10 games with San Jose last season before being traded to Arizona in a deal that sent Hill to the Sharks.

PROVING GROUND

Arizona’s group of newcomers includes two veterans trying to regain their old forms in defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere and left win Andrew Ladd.

Gostisbehere was the Calder Trophy runner-up as a rookie with Philadelphia in 2015-16 and had a 65-point season two years later. The 28-year-old has been plagued by injuries in recent years and notched nine goals and 11 assists in 41 games last season.

Ladd has won the Stanley Cup twice and has played in 950 career NHL games but has been beset with injuries in recent years. He appeared in one playoff game for the New York Islanders in 2020 and four games in 2019-20.

PHIL THE THRILL

Injuries took a toll on Kessel during his first season with Arizona, limiting his production even though he managed to keep his consecutive games streak alive.

The 33-year-old right wing didn’t have the same injury woes last season and his production went back up. He led the Coyotes with 20 goals and 43 assists while stretching his streak to 900 straight games, fifth all-time and third among active players.

DIVISION SWITCH

With the addition of the expansion Seattle Kraken, the Coyotes were moved from the Pacific Division to the Central.

Now Arizona will not only have longer road trips within the division, it will have more games with teams like Colorado. St. Louis and Dallas.

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