Prior to the 2010 Olympic games, the New Jersey Devils became the lucky recipients of Russian sniper Ilya Kovalchuk in a major trade with the Atlanta Thrashers. Once the NHL season resumed at the beginning of this week, most speculated that there wasn’t going to be too much on the market due to heavily contested playoff races in both conferences.
While they didn’t make what could be considered a blockbuster deal, the Coyotes dramatically changed the makeup of their lineup, adding veteran leadership and defensive potency with seven trades in all.
With the return of defenseman Derek Morris and the addition of 21-year-veteran Mathieu Schneider, the Desert Dogs now have a formidable group back on the blue line that will be able to compete with the West’s best.
Morris, who was playing for the Boston Bruins, waived his no-trade clause in order to return to the Coyotes a year after being dealt to the New York Rangers. He said he is “ecstatic” to return to the Coyotes, a team he spent five seasons with from 2004-2009.
Acquiring the 40-year-old Schneider from Vancouver was definitely a role of the dice, but it is a bet worth taking. The youthful Coyotes will benefit from Schneider’s locker room presence and his championship experience as a Stanley Cup winner with the Canadiens in 1993. He also has familiarity with both Maloney (NYI 1994-96) and Head Coach Dave Tippett (LA 2000-02).
Both defenseman know how to move their feet quickly and get the puck up ice off the rush. This also adds incredible depth to their struggling power play, which is currently dead last in the league overall.
And speaking of power play, did someone say Wojtek Wolski? The former first round pick of the Avs back in 2004 brings his 17 goals and 47 points to a team that desperately needs more scoring up front. Although the Coyotes had to give up their own future star in Peter Mueller, Wolski’s numbers prove that he is currently further along than Mueller, and the Coyotes have made it clear that they are ready to win now.
With the other major additions of forwards Petteri Nokelainen from the Ducks and Lee Stempniak from the Maple Leafs, Phoenix added two more offensive threats who both possess size and speed. It’s hard to believe that this team––who is now currently in fourth place in the Western Conference––was the same group that was uncertain if they would even still be playing hockey in the desert only seven months ago. Maloney has made it clear that they are a team to be reckoned with and if Bryzgalov gets hot between the pipes, this is one team that no one is going to want to mess with come the end of April.