NHL trade deadline could help contenders, Coyotes’ rebuild at same time

NHL trade deadline could help contenders, Coyotes' rebuild at same time
Kelsey Grant/NHLI via Getty Images

When you consider the mess on and off the ice, it clearly wouldn’t be pleasant to run the Arizona Coyotes right now. Yet, for musty, nerdy armchair GMs, the Coyotes present a fascinating test case in running a full-on rebuild. And the Coyotes may indeed accelerate that rebuild, depending upon how the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline works out.

During the latest edition of TSN’s Insider Trading, Chris Johnston reported that the Coyotes would be willing to take on “contracts or money in exchange for future assets” heading into the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline.

Let’s take a look at how the Coyotes have already used trades to enhance their rebuild, then ponder how they might try to repeat those steps during the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline.

Other rebuilders (and builders?) could learn from Coyotes’ offseason

Honestly, the Coyotes handled the offseason a lot like I thought the Seattle Kraken should have. And Arizona didn’t even have the expansion draft as leverage.

That thought was especially prominent when the Coyotes made a deal that sure felt like it was something the Kraken could’ve embraced. The Flyers bribed the Coyotes to take Shayne Gostisbehere in a trade featuring a second-rounder going to Arizona.

Such a deal is already a win for the Coyotes, and it could get better if Arizona can flip the defenseman for even more picks/prospects in a future trade. (Someone, somewhere, may notice that Gostisbehere’s 28 points leaves him tied with Charlie McAvoy and Rasmus Dahlin.)

Rather than listing each pick, just consider how robust the Coyotes rebuild war chest is getting in visual form, via Cap Friendly:

That’s impressive, especially since they managed to jump into the first round of the 2021 NHL Draft thanks to bold trading.

[More on the steps Coyotes already took in their rebuild]

Sure, some moves were easier to make than others. Giving up Conor Garland, a 25-year-old gem who’s on a team-friendly contract, stings quite a bit.

But it was worth it to shake loose from Oliver Ekman-Larsson‘s contract, and load up on good stuff, for the small price of taking on expiring contracts such as Loui Eriksson, Antoine Roussel, and Jay Beagle.

Possible 2022 NHL Trade Deadline partners who could help Coyotes rebuild

Ultimately, the Coyotes look very open-minded when it comes to taking on contracts/bad money for the sake of gathering assets. That’s why, heading into this exercise, I expected to list a ton of teams.

But with a potential new wrinkle in their perpetual nightmare of an arena situation, and their full commitment to a rebuild, how many players would waive their no-trade clauses to play for the Arizona Coyotes? Sure, some could. The weather’s better than in the frostiest markets.

Generally speaking, though, let’s assume players won’t be interested. That narrows the field down — yet doesn’t limit it to contenders alone. Feel free to discuss other possibilities in the comments, but these teams stand out as possible 2022 NHL Trade Deadline partners for the Coyotes.

The sweaty, desperate Oilers

Before signing Evander Kane, Oilers GM Ken Holland indicated that he didn’t want to make the sort of desperate trade deadline moves the Coyotes are hoping to exploit.

Still, there’s also no denying the air of desperation hanging over this franchise. That’s where Bill Armstrong can slide in and say, “Hey pal, let me help you out.” One name sticks out as an interesting potential trade bribe:

  • Zack Kassian, 31, carries a $3.2 million cap hit through 2023-24.

It’s unclear what would be the right price there. Holland probably wouldn’t want to hand over a 2022 first-rounder, and the second-rounder is tied up in Duncan Keith trade conditions.

[Oilers don’t want desperation trades, but did make desperation Kane signing]

Let’s be honest, though.

The Coyotes probably know their rebuild is going to take a while. Depending upon conditions, the Coyotes boast two extra first-rounders and four extra second-rounders for the 2022 NHL Draft. If the Coyotes offered to take on Kassian for 2023 or even 2024 NHL Draft picks, would Holland sweeten the deal?

One would think that Holland would label a lack of 2023 or 2024 NHL Draft picks as a “good problem to have.” (You know, because in that situation, he’d still be in charge of handling that problem.)

Aside: one other idea might be to take Mikko Koskinen‘s $4.5M off the Oilers’ hands, so they can target someone like Marc-Andre Fleury at the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline.

Clearing space for those “blank check” Flyers — again

Other rebuilding NHL teams ought to use the Coyotes taking on Shayne Gostisbehere as a template.

If the Flyers back up their press conference and give Chuck Fletcher another offseason to work with, you have to think he’d be feeling the heat. That could again work to Arizona’s advantage.

James van Riemsdyk sticks out as a player the Flyers might want to unload. JVR’s already 32, and his $7M cap hit runs through 2023-24.

While the Flyers may end up selling at the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline with Claude Giroux, an “aggressive re-tool” may also involve clearing the decks for big spending next offseason. So getting JVR off the books could really be promising to fledgling Flyers GM Fletcher. The Coyotes could hope to pump up JVR’s value for an additional trade (like they may hope with Gostisbehere) by feeding him power-play opportunities.

Could be a bold swing where everyone wins.

The Flyers also stand in for a blander role the Coyotes could play at the NHL trade deadline. If a team wanted to launder some of Giroux’s $8.275M cap hit, why not let the Coyotes retain some of that for picks?

That’s where someone could pretend-waive their trade clauses for the Coyotes.

Clearing the deck for a team like the Wild?

In some quarters, Victor Rask gets too much grief. Yes, his $4M price tag is steep, but Rask brings value to the Wild.

Yet, with buyout-related salary cap bills looming during the next three seasons, what if the Wild want to take a big swing at the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline? The Coyotes might be able to facilitate a wild Wild swing by taking on Rask’s $4M.

Ultimately, this is just a smattering of the possibilities for the Coyotes to boost their rebuild at the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline. Especially if teams convince players to waive clauses.

A successful rebuild requires making the right picks, and developing those prospects properly. Arizona faces great challenges in those regards. Nonetheless, they’re already off to an impressive start, and could take more big steps.

Of course, it’s also up to Arizona’s trade partners to make it a win-win situation, instead of just a rebuild victory for the Coyotes.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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    Stars aligned with new coach DeBoer, Nill-constructed roster

    Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
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    DALLAS — General manager Jim Nill sensed things were coming together for the Dallas Stars even before the season started with new coach Pete DeBoer and a roster mixed with proven veterans, up-and-coming young players, and even a teenaged center.

    At the NHL’s All-Star break, after 51 games together, these Stars are leading the Western Conference.

    “Every year you start, you put a team together, and there’s always going to be question marks,” said Nill, in his 10th season as the Stars GM. “You have ideas how you think you’re going to come together, but there’s always the unknown. . This year has been one of those years where right from the start, you could just see everything was kind of jelling.”

    The Stars (28-13-10, 66 points) have their trio of 2017 draft picks that just keep getting better: All-Star winger Jason Robertson, goaltender Jake Oettinger and defenseman Miro Heiskanen. The seemingly ageless Joe Pavelski, at 38 and already re-signed for next season, is on the high-scoring top line with Robertson and point-a-game winger Roope Hintz. Wyatt Johnston, their first-round pick in 2021 and half Pavelski’s age, has 13 goals.

    There is also the resurgence of six-time All-Star forward Tyler Seguin two years after hip surgery and 33-year-old captain Jamie Benn, who already has more goals (19) than he did playing all 82 games last season.

    The Stars have a plus-40 goal differential, which is second-best in the NHL. They are averaging 3.37 goals per game, more than a half-goal better than last season when they were the only team to make the playoffs after being outscored in the regular season. They are also allowing fewer goals, and have improved on power plays and penalty kills.

    “Where we sit at this break, I think guys are happy with that,” Seguin said, before being asked the keys to the Stars leading the West and on pace for a 100-point season with their new coach.

    “Our style, our team speed, our puck speed, being predictable. All the clichés, knowing where the puck’s going. Really how we play the five-man unit,” he said. “Our pace this year, it’s been a lot quicker. There’s been some solid depth scoring this year while we’ve got one of the best lines in hockey.”

    The Stars went into the break on their only three-game losing streak of the season, all 3-2 overtime losses at home.

    “Those aren’t real losses,” said DeBoer, who twice has gone to the Stanley Cup Final in his first season with a new team. “I’m happy where we’re at. I like how we’re playing.”

    Plus, Dallas won’t have to worry in the playoffs about 3-on-3 hockey, which has been the only real stain on their season so far. Only one team has more than its 10 losses after regulation.

    “We’ve played a lot of good hockey. We’ve made a lot of good strides in our game,” DeBoer said. “We still have another level we have to get to when we get back, but there are a lot of good things that have happened. They’ve worked to have us where we are right now in the standings. Good spot to be in.”

    The Stars have 31 games left in the regular season. The first four after the break at home, like the last four before their week-long hiatus.

    Robertson’s 33 goals rank sixth in the NHL, and the 23-year-old has the same number of assists while averaging 1.29 points a game even after he missed most of training camp before signing a four-year, $31 million contract. Pavelski has 48 points (14 goals, 34 assists) while playing every game, and Hintz 46 points (20 goals, 26 assists) in only 43 games.

    Oettinger, who is 21-7 in regulation, has a .923 save percentage and 2.26 goals against average since signing his three-year, $12 million contract. That deal came after 223 saves in a seven-game playoff series against Calgary last May, capped by 64 in the series finale that went to overtime.

    Nill said Robertson’s production has improved even with the league adjusting to the high-scoring forward, and that Oettinger is proving to be one of the league’s best goalies. But they are just part of what has been a tremendous team effort.

    “They kind of had that mojo right from the start, and it was kind of this team’s got the right mix,” Nill said. “It’s come together well, and it’s shown in the standings. It’s been good to watch.”

    Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

    Ilya Mikheyev
    Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports

    VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

    Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

    Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

    Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

    Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

    Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports

    Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

    The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

    Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

    After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

    Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

    Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

    caufield surgery
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    MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

    But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

    “I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

    Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

    “I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

    Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

    Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

    Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.