2022 NHL Off-Season Guide: The Arizona Coyotes
Welcome to the second NHL 2022 Off-Season guide. Last time out we checked in on the Montreal Canadiens and we continue moving up the regular season standings with the Arizona Coyotes. With only the Canadiens having a worse record the rebuild is on in the desert. The Coyotes are in a good position though as long as they play their cards right… and get a place to play.
With Loui Eriksson, Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel, Anton Strälman, and Phil Kessel all unrestricted free agents the Coyotes have a chance to shed over $24 million in cap this off-season. If you are Bill Armstrong you take this chance as you enter a full-on rebuild. This gives you enough space to re-sign your Restricted Free Agents like Barrett Hayton and still have enough cap to bring in experienced pros on cheaper deals that would be a good influence among the young dressing room.
That’s not to say all will walk. If you could keep Kessel and Strälman on team-friendly deals you take the chance, even despite their age. Either could be captain which is a position currently vacant after the Coyotes traded Oliver Ekman-Larsson last off-season. Jacob Chychrun is the obvious pick should you be able to convince him on the project with four years remaining on his deal. If not, a one-year captainship of Phil Kessel could solve some problems. Although if you are looking long term this could become Clayton Keller’s team should Chychrun check out, so why not start now?
A new home? Seems too easy of an answer but it’s also the truth. Having a team means nothing if you’ve nowhere to play. The Coyotes’ agreement with Gila River Arena ended this year and they will be sharing a home with the Arizona State University Sun Devils for the foreseeable future with a new $1.2 billion arena waiting to be approved in Tempe, Arizona. Despite recent reports, the Coyotes will have their logo on the ice at the ASU Multi-Purpose Arena and will pay for upgrades to make it NHL compliant.
As for on-ice needs, the youth are coming for the Coyotes. For now, it’s all about experienced pros who will set good examples for these budding youngsters. With Clayton Keller, Barrett Hayton, Connor Timmins, Jakob Chychrun, Karel Vejmelka, and Jack McBain all 25 years old or younger the Coyotes can feel good about where this team is going, albeit Hayton is an RFA and you cannot overpay on what has not been an explosive start to his NHL career. It’s also a case of getting their buy-in for the long-term project, especially in the case of Chychrun.
With a projected cap space of $33,194,166 this off-season, the Coyotes are in a position where they can offer short-term deals until their prospects develop. They are not crunching numbers to see if they can bring back their RFA’s and UFA’s although as mentioned above I wouldn’t expect them to. There should be more than enough space to bolster the squad with experienced pros and look to continue the rebuild.
My only concern regarding their cap space is that they overpay on RFA’s like Barrett Hayton, Christian Fischer, or Lawson Crouse just because they can. None of those have earned their big payday yet and it needs to be reflected in their new contract. No long-term deals and nothing over $3 million AAV. In Fischer’s case, even that might be too much.
With seven picks in the first two rounds of the 2022 NHL Draft, including three in the first round, the Arizona Coyotes have a real chance to change the course direction of this team for the long-term future this offseason. With the number three pick, they are guaranteed a high-end talent and with deficiencies in all areas, there’s no go-to person the Coyotes should take. The other two first-round picks are likely to be low due to the Carolina Hurricanes and Colorado Avalanche making round two of the playoffs, but should still generate some quality depth in years to come.
It’s the four second-round picks that the Coyotes will need to hit on. If they miss on all four then it’s a complete bust of a draft for General Manager Bill Armstrong. With contracts expiring as we mentioned above, filling in-depth pieces at a reasonable cost is going to be an absolute necessity for two or even three years down the line. With that many draft picks in the second round, I also would not be totally surprised if the Coyotes reached on someone. After the second round, they have only three more picks in the third, fifth and sixth round respectively. There’s every possibility they gamble on at least one of those picks for someone in the later rounds they are high on.
It’s a case of rebuild for the Arizona Coyotes, especially in a packed Central Division. The amount of Draft picks this season should help as long as Bill Armstrong and his scouting staff do their due diligence. However, the off ice issues may be just as important as the on ice issues and a new arena decision needs to be made sooner rather than later.