Arizona Coyotes
(image from Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Is 2021 -2022 the Final Season in Arizona for the Coyotes?

The Arizona Coyotes have decided it is time to rebuild. They have sold off plenty of valuable assets and brought in veterans to hold prevent their promising prospects being rushed into the overwhelming action of the NHL. I commend the Coyotes for having a plan. In ’19-’20, they tried to go all in but ultimately came up short. Management does not want to be stuck in mediocrity. Unfortunately, in a rebuild, selling everything off is the easiest part of a long process. Arizona will need to prove that this was the right decision, but that answer may not come for at least a handful of years, and they might not even be in Arizona anymore.

The Arizona Coyotes are not going to be a good hockey team this season. Actually, they will be bad. Very bad. In fact, Glendale, the Arizona city the Coyotes call home, has plans to move on from them because they do not think they will be good enough. The City of Glendale will terminate the Coyotes’ lease for Gila River Arena after the ’21-’22 season, forcing them to either find a new residence in Arizona or relocate entirely. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has expressed year after year how much he wants hockey in the desert, and Coyotes’ insider Craig Morgan says, “they’re not going anywhere.” He added, “it’s just a matter of figuring out what they’re going to do in the short term…Arizona’s Veterans’ Memorial Coliseum being the most likely option.” The City of Tempe would be welcome to hosting the Coyotes in the future, but that would require a new arena to be built in an already crowded area. Cities like Houston, Kansas City, Indianapolis, Quebec, and Hamilton (Ontario) will be knocking at the door if the Coyotes cannot find a solution.

Offseason Moves

As mentioned before, the Arizona Coyotes shook up their roster quite a bit this offseason. The biggest shake up came via trade with the Vancouver Canucks. Arizona sent their captain, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and Conor Garland north of the border for a package including veteran forwards Jay Beagle, Loui Eriksson, and Antoine Roussel. The Coyotes also got a 2021 first-round pick, a 2022 second-round pick, and a 2023 seventh-round pick. Vancouver really wanted Garland, who has racked up 39 points in back-to-back seasons and is only 25. However, they were going to have to take on a large contract as compensation. Though Arizona is willing to retain 12%, Ekman-Larsson was that large contract, and the Canucks will have to deal with his $7.26 million cap hit for each of the next six seasons. For Vancouver, was it worth it for Garland? I don’t think so, but Ekman-Larsson is a good player with some good years left in him (he’s still only 30 years old). He is a two-time All-Star and has 128 goals and 260 assists in 769 career games. The Coyotes turned that first-rounder into Dylan Guenther at ninth overall, and he is going to be a great NHL player one day.

The Coyotes also traded away Christian Dvorak and Darcy Kuemper to Montreal and Colorado, respectively. In total, Arizona received a 2022 first-round pick, 2024 second- and third-round picks, as well as 22-year-old defenseman Conor Timmins as a return. The Coyotes will miss them both, especially Kuemper and his .917 save percentage and 2.47 GAA for his career. They also lost their backup goalie, Antti Raanta, to free agency.

Of course, the Arizona Coyotes have some new faces coming to the desert this year. They acquired defensemen Shayne Gostisbehere and Anton Stralman for basically nothing. In fact, the Philadelphia Flyers got nothing in return and gave up 2022 second- and seventh-round picks just so they could get Gostisbehere and his $4.5 million cap hit through ’22-’23 off the books. Stralman was a similar situation. The Florida Panthers felt he was making too much money for the last year of his contract at 35-years old. Arizona will take on his $5.4 cap hit for this season, and I would not be surprised if he retired following the year.

The Coyotes also brought in forwards Ryan Dzingel and Alex Galchenyuk and goaltender Carter Hutton all on one-year deals, but the biggest addition is new head coach Andre Tourigny. Tourigny has plenty of experience, with most of it coming at the junior level. He spent three years as an assistant coach for the Avalanche and Senators from 2013 to 2016. Tourigny will connect with and help the young players in Arizona grow. Though his record may not be very impressive after this season, the Coyotes believe they have the right man going forward.

“New” Logo and Uniforms

The Arizona Coyotes announced that they are bringing back their kachina logo and sweaters full time moving forward. This is giving me some serious Doan, Roenick, and Tkachuk vibes, and I love it. It’s a message to the fanbase that they don’t think they are moving to a different state/province. Last year, the Coyotes wore their black kachina jerseys for almost every home as an ode to their 25th year as a franchise in the desert but kept their normal away jerseys with the modern logo on it. It was a pretty weird concept, and I’m glad we get to see this great design on a nightly basis. Just look at how happy Phil Kessel is to have these beauties back:

Lineup Projection

Here are my projected lines for the ’21-’22 Arizona Coyotes:

Clayton Keller (A)Nick SchmaltzPhil Kessel (A)
Lawson CrouseBarrett HaytonChristian Fischer
Ryan DzingelJohan LarssonAlex Galchenyuk
Loui ErikssonJay BeagleAntoine Roussel
Forwards

Phil Kessel led this team last season with 43 points. At 33, he was the only Coyote to reach the 20-goal mark. He’s currently working his way back from a foot injury, so if he can’t go opening night, look for Galchenyuk to fill his spot. The first line is serviceable, but just flat out struggles to score in bunches. Keller and Schmaltz are still young, but the time is now to see if they can be the pieces to build around in the future. They combined for 67 points last year.

Crouse, Hayton, and Fischer should be a fun, energetic line. They have all had little success at the NHL level, but all three of them are 24 or younger. The third line is a standard checking line that won’t see a lot of offensive zone time, and the fourth is a line made up of guys from the Garland/Ekman-Larsson trade, so that’s kind of cool.

Jakob Chychrun (A)Ilya Lyubushkin
Shayne GostisbehereConor Timmins
Anton StralmanVictor Soderstrom (R)
Defensemen

Jakob Chychrun is incredible, and if anyone is on track to become Arizona’s next captain, it would be him. He’s only 23 and put up 18 goals and 23 assists last year, easily making him one of the most valuable offensive defensemen in the entire league. Keep in mind he’s 6’2”, 210 lbs., so he can hold his own in his own zone without any issues.

Gostisbehere will get second powerplay unit time with, hopefully, Soderstrom. Soderstrom is only 20-years old with a solid right-handed shot from the point. Pairing him up with a veteran player like Stralman would be extremely helpful in his progression to becoming an above-average NHL defenseman.

Carter HuttonJosef Korenar
Goaltenders

Disregard this goalie room – it stinks. I would expect both Karel Vejmelka and Ivan Prosvetov to get playing time, as well. If the Coyotes come anywhere near a playoff spot, it will not be because of these guys.

Where Will They Finish?

Well, they are definitely not a playoff team, and I’d put my life savings on them missing out on the tournament. The best-case scenario for the Arizona Coyotes would be to finish last in the Pacific division, so that is where I will pick them to end up. They should be able to compete with the other weaklings of their division, but will be severely overmatched by teams like Vegas and Edmonton. Over the next few years, Arizona needs to give themselves the highest odds of landing the number one overall pick, because this franchise is in need of a game breaking talent. Keller, Schmaltz, and Chychrun are good, young foundational pieces, but they need more if they want to get back to the postseason.

Since relocating from Winnipeg in 1996, the Coyotes have made the playoffs just nine times. In eight of their nine appearances, they lost in the first round. Their only deep playoff run was in ’11-’12 when they lost in five games to the eventual Stanley Cup champions, the Los Angeles Kings.

The Arizona Coyotes open the ’21-’22 NHL season at +10000 odds to win the Stanley Cup.

Full Craig Morgan quote on thefourthperiod.com. Twitter post from the official Arizona Coyotes Twitter page.

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