Over the recent weekend, a drastic transformation of the Arizona Coyotes began.
From a sorry, desperate season, general manager Don Maloney and decision-makers within the organization made the commitment to rebuild, and rebuild in a dramatic fashion.
In trading 28-year-old Keith Yandle to the Rangers on Sunday, Maloney was able to pry prized prospect Anthony Duclair from New York. Within the perspective of the deal, Duclair, at 19-years-old, is the center-piece, and is expected to be reunited with his Team Canada linemate Maxi Domi, the Coyotes number one pick, and 12th overall, in the 2013 draft. The pair helped Canada to the World Junior championships earlier this winter.
In meeting with the media Sunday afternoon, Maloney did not appear to lose any sleep in dealing Yandle, whom he acknowledged as a gifted offensive player but “had an issue defending, of course,” Maloney said.
In 63 games for Arizona this season, Yandle accumulated 41 points, and was the team’s leading scorer. On the power play, he picked up 26 points and that leads NHL defenseman this season.
At the same time, Yandle, a native of Boston, is considered a defensive liability. Coming into Saturday’s game with Boston, he was a minus 32. At the same time, he exhibits a penchant for frequently giving pucks away in his own end.
As part of the effort to secure Duclair, Maloney had to part with Yandle. “That was a requirement to the deal,” Maloney said.
As well, Arizona acquired 24-year-old defenseman John Moore, the Rangers’ 2016, number one pick, and New York’s second round choice in the 2015 selection. The Rangers also get defenseman Chris Summers and the Coyotes’ fourth round pick in the 2015 draft.
The Coyotes are also on the hook for half of Yandle’s salary through the end of the 2015-16 season. At that time, Yandle becomes a free agent, and the economics are then out of Maloney’s hands. That amount becomes $5.3 million, Yandle’s salary for the rest of this season and next, and the Coyotes are obligation to pay half. For Maloney, that was a small price to pay for the future.
securing the future
“No one liked what was going on with our hockey team, and we have to be better,” Maloney said. “You get better by building through the draft and acquiring great, young talent. In the two deals we made over the weekend, we believe we answered the need for younger talent.”
In addition to the Yandle transaction Sunday, the Coyotes acquired the Blackhawks number one pick in the 2015 draft along with defenseman Klas Dahlbeck for center Antoine Vermette. Both Morris and Dahlbeck are expected at practice Monday and in the Arizona line-up Tuesday night at home against Anaheim.
For now, Maloney believes several key pieces are in place for a productive future. While the development of players, from draft day until each steps on the ice donning an NHL sweater, could be any where between two to four years, Maloney indicated the future sets up well for the franchise.
Over the next two drafts, the Coyotes have four, first round picks.
“In addition to the draft picks we acquired, there are several already in the system,” he pointed out. “Getting Dulair was important because he represents the perfect fit for us.”
There is no question the Coyotes have stock-piled young talent.
Maloney indicated the prospect of Domi and Duclair playing on the same line increases the Coyotes scoring capabilities. Plus, former first round pick Henrik Samuelsson and second round pick from the 2012 draft, Jordan Martinook, have both received playing time with Arizona this season. Waiting to develop as well is Brendan Perlini, the Coyotes first round pick and 12th overall in last summer’s draft, as well as forward Christian Dvorak, a second round pick in 2014.
“It’s exciting where we are going,” Maloney said. “It’s a re-setting of the team, and puts in a position to compete for a Stanley Cup within the coming years.”
wait until next season
On Sunday, Maloney indicated two key offensive players, Martin Hanzal and Mikkel Boedker, will not return this season.
Hanzal had back surgery in January, and Boedker had his spleen removed after being injured in a game at Winnipeg on Jan. 18.
“Losing both of those players certainly did not help our offense,” Maloney said. “Right now, we are not a great scoring team. With the players we acquired and developing, we hope this will change, and change quickly.”
Saddled with a current, nine-game losing streak, the Coyotes are back at the Gila River Arena for a six game home stand. They play nine of their next 10 games on home ice. Arizona has one more Eastern trip remaining and visit Detroit, Buffalo and Pittsburgh from March 24 to the 28.
The current six game stand opens with Anaheim Tuesday night followed by visits from Vancouver, Montreal, Nashville, Chicago and the Devils.
Mark Brown is a former sports editor for daily newspapers in the Philadelphia and Cincinnati markets. He was named Best Sports Columnist, honorable mention 2004 by the Associated Press Society of Ohio. He is a contributor to major daily newspapers, including the Chicago Sun Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Milwaukee Journal, Arizona Republic, Nashville Tennessean and the Associated Press. He was a Featured Columnist for bleacherreport.com and covered the Arizona Coyotes.