Beau Bennett

It’s Arizona Coyotes Day at PHT

Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Arizona Coyotes. 

2018-19
39-35-8, 86 points (4th in Pacific Division, 9th in Western Conference)
Playoffs: Did not qualify

IN
Phil Kessel
Carl Soderberg
Beau Bennett

OUT
Alex Galchenyuk
Kevin Connauton
Nick Cousins
Richard Panik
Josh Archibald

RE-SIGNED
Lawson Crouse
Hudson Fasching
Ilya Lyubushkin

2018-19 Season Summary

The Coyotes opened last season by dropping four of their first five games but they found a way to go on a five-game winning streak in late October/early November. The rest of 2018 was very much up and down for them, which is something you’d expect from a young team.

They managed to get really hot in late February/early March, as they won six games in a row and eight of nine contests. Just as they were building momentum in their fight for a playoff spot, the wheels fell off again in March when they dropped seven of their last 11 games that month.

In the end, they ended up missing the playoffs by just four points and they only had one fewer regulation/overtime win than Colorado, who finished in the final Wild Card spot.

It’s easy to look at the Coyotes’ season as a failure, but they’ve clearly built some positive momentum heading into the summer. Head coach Rick Tocchet found a way to get the most out of his group of players. They were so close to the postseason despite not having starting goalie Antti Raanta for most of the season (they used five different goalies last year) and they didn’t have any player hit the 20-goal or 50-point mark in 2018-19 (Yeah, you read that correctly).

Tocchet isn’t the only one that deserves credit. Goalie Darcy Kuemper turned in strong performance after strong performance throughout the campaign. This was Kuemper’s first real opportunity to be a starting goaltender in the NHL and he didn’t disappoint. The 29-year-old finished the year with a 27-20-8 record, a 2.33 goals-against-average and a .925 save percentage. He kept them in the race. Now that Raanta is healthy again, it’ll be interesting to see how the two netminders split starts next season.

[MORE COYOTES: Under Pressure: Kessel | X-factor | Three questions]

Heading into the season, Arizona probably expected a little more production from Clayton Keller. The 21-year-old had 23 goals and 65 points in 82 games during his rookie season, but he followed that up by scoring 14 goals and 47 points in the same amount of games in year two. It’s totally normal for a player to take a step back in the second year of his career, but the diminished production may have been the difference between playing in the playoffs and watching them from home.

And the other thing that hurt the Coyotes was the failed Alex Galchenyuk experiment. GM John Chayka traded Max Domi to Montreal to get Galchenyuk, but he only lasted one year in the desert. Yes, trading him away allowed the team to get Phil Kessel from Pittsburgh, but it must have been hard for the ‘Yotes to watch Domi score over 70 points for the Habs while Galchenyuk managed just 41 points in 72 games. Apparently Chayka saw all he needed to see from the 25-year-old in just one season.

The Coyotes were a nice little story in 2018-19, but they have to find a way to turn the corner this season. They have a new owner, some new players and a coaching staff that has another year under their belt. They have to find a way to get themselves in one of the top eight spots in the Western Conference. Signing Oliver Ekman-Larsson to a long-term deal will help keep them competitive and adding veterans like Kessel and Carl Soderberg should give them a nudge in the right direction, too.

MORE: ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Flyers loan Matt Read to AHL, reminding us that NHL cuts can be cruel

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With two seasons of at least 22 goals, Matt Read seems like the sort of player who should be able to secure an NHL job.

Maybe he’ll be back with the Philadelphia Flyers again at some point in 2017-18, but he’s slated to begin the season in the AHL after the Flyers loaned Read to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Tuesday. This comes after Read cleared waivers.

The 31-year-old will still cost the Flyers quite a bit of money in cap space, even though he’s playing in the AHL.

It all feels like such a waste, doesn’t it?

Really, though, Read is just the latest in a slew of players who seem too good for the AHL but can’t quite land with a team in the NHL. In Read’s case, it’s almost certainly a matter of cost. But it’s staggering that, even with the number of teams growing to 31, some quality players can’t seem to find work.

(Even in a salary retention scenario, it might be tough to work out a taker for Read.)

This is also part of the reason why people get a little grumpy when the likes of Tanner Glass and Matt Hendricks continue to land one-way contracts. Just consider some of the quality players who either couldn’t get a contract at all or find themselves in the AHL:

  • Brandon Pirri, a player who managed a 22-goal campaign in just 49 games back in 2014-15, was released from his PTO. He couldn’t impress enough in his tryout with the Florida Panthers, the team most likely to believe in his abilities (since he achieved his best numbers with the Cats).
  • Analytics darling P.A. Parenteau couldn’t catch on with the (potentially dreadful) Detroit Red Wings.
  • Struggling former first-rounders such as Emerson Etem and Beau Bennett were placed on waivers. Andrew Hammond, Malcolm Subban, and other fairly noteworthy goalies struggle to find footholds.
  • Cory Conacher ranks as one of the classic examples of a “AAAA player.” He puts up great AHL numbers but, beyond a blip of NHL activity, can’t seem to stick at that level. One can’t help but wonder if the likes of Etem and Bennett may join him under that designation.
  • Even players who catch on sometimes struggle more than you’d think. It’s strange how down-to-the-wire the Jaromir Jagr signing ended up being, especially since the Calgary Flames signed him for cheap. Cody Franson may catch on with the Chicago Blackhawks, yet you’d think a solid depth defenseman would go through a smoother process.

Yup, the NHL can be cruel, especially to players who don’t generate reputations as “grit guys” and/or “leaders in the room.”

Read finding himself in the AHL comes down to a number of factors; to some extent, it’s a testament to the young talent Flyers GM Ron Hextall has amassed, with the likes of Nolan Patrick making the cut.

Still, there are teams that will put some paltry players on the ice in 2017-18, and fans may grumble when they consider the talent that’s either stuck in the AHL or without an easy path to the NHL altogether.

While Read wasn’t claimed, there were some notable claims made on Tuesday. Check out this post for further details on Subban and Patrik Nemeth.

Also:

Several first-rounders such as Etem, Bennett go on waivers

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Tuesday’s waiver list was an eyebrow-raiser because Jordan Nolan was on it. The elevation of such eyebrows seemed justified once the Buffalo Sabres snatched him up today.

If Wednesday’s waivers share a theme, it might be failed (or at least struggling) first-round picks.

Emerson Etem, Beau Bennett and Stefan Matteau were all first-rounders. Bennett (20th overall) and Etem (29th) were both selected in 2010, while Matteau was the 29th choice in 2012.

Ty Rattie just barely misses that theme; he was a second-rounder in 2011, yet was very close to going in the first as the Blues made him the 32nd pick. Landon Ferraro falls into a similar spot: 32nd overall, only in 2009.

Here’s the full list, via TVA’s Renaud Lavoie.

It will be interesting to see if teams decide that some of these guys are worth a very minor gamble.

Bennett, 25, ranks among those getting some hype:

His development was stunted by injuries, particularly during his days with the Pittsburgh Penguins, so perhaps Bennett is one of those guys who can turn things around.

For some, it sure seems like their NHL careers might not really pan out.

Poll: Will Blues compete for Central Division title next season?

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This post is part of Blues Day on PHT…

The St. Louis Blues went through a number of changes last offseason. They key veterans David Backes, Troy Brouwer and Brian Elliott in free agency, and no one really knew how it would affect them on the ice.

After struggling pretty badly in January, they fired head coach Ken Hitchcock and they ended up replacing him with coach-in-waiting Mike Yeo.

At the time of the firing, the Blues were clinging to the final Wild Card spot in the West. In the end, they were able to move up to third place in the Central Division.

Thanks to some masterful goaltending by Jake Allen, they were able to knock off the Wild in five games in the opening round, but they fell to Nashville in round two.

The Blues didn’t make a ton of changes to their roster this summer. They acquired Brayden Schenn from Philadelphia at the draft and they added winger Beau Bennett in free agency.

Is it enough to come away with the Central Division crown?

Both the Blackhawks and Wild finished ahead of them in the standings last season. The ‘Hawks made some major changes to their roster, as they dealt Artemi Panarin, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Scott Darling and Marcus Kruger away. They’ve also already lost Marian Hossa for the season, too.

The Wild got off to a fantastic start last season, but they crumbled down the stretch and were no match for the Blues in the postseason.

As of right now, the biggest threat for the division crown is probably Nashville.  The Predators didn’t have a great regular season, but they managed to find a way to come together during a run to the Stanley Cup Final. They also added Nick Bonino, Scott Hartnell and Alexei Emelin this offseason. Notable losses include: James Neal, Mike Fisher and Colin Wilson.  How will a long playoff run affect the Preds going into next season?

The most intriguing team in the division might just be Hitchcock’s new team, the Dallas Stars. They spent some money upgrading their roster, as they landed goalie Ben Bishop, winger Alex Radulov, center Martin Hanzal, defenseman Marc Methot. The Stars have had a tough time keeping the puck out of their own, so if Hitchcock and his new acquisitions can help them in that area, they’ll be tough to stop.

The Winnipeg Jets have an up-and-coming roster with plenty of skilled players. They signed Steve Mason to help young goalie Connor Hellebuyck out, but will that be enough? The Jets will likely be a dangerous squad in the near future, it just might not be this season.

And as for the Colorado Avalanche, well, let’s just say they still have a ton of work to do before we can put them in the conversation for the division title.

The Blues aren’t going to be the favorites to land the Central Division crown. Of course, that doesn’t mean they don’t have a shot. The key to this whole thing might just be Allen, who has always struggled with consistency at the NHL level.

If Allen can play anywhere close to the way he did during the playoffs (1.96 goals-against-average, .935 save percentage), they’ll have a chance to do some damage.

The biggest question is, did he just catch lightning in a bottle, or is he finally starting to take his game to the next level?

Alright, it’s your turn to have your say. Vote in the poll below and leave your opinion in the comments section below.

Bennett, Grigorenko, Chiasson among notable players to not receive qualifying offers

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Monday was the deadline for teams to extend qualifying offers to pending restricted free agents, and there were a number of notable ones to not receive such an offer from their teams, making them eligible for unrestricted free agency on July 1.

Among some of the bigger names to not receive offers were Washington Capitals forward Brett Connolly, St. Louis Blues forward Nail Yakupov, New Jersey Devils forward Beau Bennett, Colorado Avalanche forward Mikhail Grigorenko, and Calgary Flames forward Alex Chiasson.

Connolly scored 15 goals in only 66 games for the Capitals this season, and it sounds like even though he did not receive a qualifying offer on Monday the team would still like to re-sign him. Update: The Capitals have reportedly re-signed him for two years, $3 million.

Playing in his first season with the Devils, Bennett set new career highs in games played (65), goals (eight), assists (11) and total points (19) but it was not enough to get him a qualifying offer so he will head to the UFA market.

Chiasson is an interesting one because he was a regular in the Flames’ lineup this past season, appearing in all but one game and scoring 12 goals.

Yakupov is notable because he was a No. 1 overall pick back in 2012 and has simply never been able to become a consistent impact player in the NHL. He played in 40 games for the Blues this season, scoring only three goals and recording just six assists.

Overall, it was a rough day for the 2012 draft class. Yakupov was one of four first-round picks from that class to not get a qualifying offer on Monday as Mikhail Grigorenko (No. 12 overall), Henrik Samuelsson (No. 27 overall) and Stefan Matteau (No. 29 overall) all joined him.

Grigorenko was originally drafted No. 12 overall by Buffalo but was traded to Colorado as part of the Ryan O'Reilly trade, a deal that has, to say the least, not worked out at all for the Avalanche.

Samuelsson to this point has only played in three NHL games.

Matteau, selected by the Devils, was traded to Montreal for Devante Smith-Pelly a year ago.

Joe Morrow was not given a qualifying offer by the Boston Bruins meaning every piece they originally acquired as part of the Tyler Seguin trade will no longer be with the organization. The only link remaining to Seguin is forward Jimmy Hayes (he was acquired for Reilly Smith, who was a part of the original Seguin trade).

Andrej Nestrasil was also not given an offer by the Carolina Hurricanes, which probably should not be a surprise given his comments back in March.