With no chance at qualifying for the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Arizona Coyotes need to do the right thing for their future – they need to send second-year players Brendan Perlini, Christian Dvorak, Jakob Chychrun, and Christian Fischer to the Tucson Roadrunners of the AHL before the trade deadline.
Only temporarily, that is.
The NHL trade deadline will pass at 3:00 P.M. ET on Monday, Feb. 26, and with it, so will the opportunity to make NHL players available for the AHL playoffs. According to AHL rules, a player must be on an AHL roster when the NHL trade deadline passes in order for them to be eligible to play in the Calder Cup playoffs.
Following the deadline, each NHL team is allowed four non-emergency recalls from the AHL, meaning that they can immediately recall any four players sent to the AHL after the deadline passes. For example, if the Coyotes assign a few players to the AHL following their game against the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday night, all would be eligible to play in the Calder Cup playoffs as members of the Tucson Roadrunners, while also being able to finish out the regular season with the Coyotes in the NHL.
Moves like these are commonly referred to as ‘paper transactions’ since they don’t actually involve the player reporting to the AHL affiliate. They’re moved only on paper and are quickly recalled back to the NHL after the deadline passes. Paper transactions are common throughout the league at this time of year as teams look to bolster their AHL affiliates’ postseason rosters while also setting their younger players up to gain valuable playoff experience.
Playing Postseason Hockey vs Sitting at Home
Perlini, Dvorak, Fischer, Chychrun are all second-year NHLers who are having good, but not great, sophomore seasons for the Coyotes. As of this writing, Fischer and Dvorak have 28 points each, while Perlini has 23 points (including just seven assists). Chychrun, a defenseman, has 10 points in 31 games after missing the first two months while he recovered from offseason knee surgery. All four are waiver-exempt, meaning the Coyotes can send them to the AHL without having to worry about them being claimed by another team.
Down in Tucson, the Roadrunners are in the midst of an outstanding season – as of this writing, they’re in first place in the Pacific Division with a 29-16-4 record and a .633 points percentage. Dylan Strome has been spectacular for the ‘Baby Yotes’, with 47 points in 40 games. He’s second in the league in points-per-game, behind only teammate Nick Merkley, who has 35 in 29 games.
Barring a spectacular collapse, Strome and the Roadrunners should easily qualify for the Calder Cup playoffs. They’re already one of the favorites to reach the AHL’s Western Conference Final even without the Coyotes and general manager John Chayka making additional players available to them. However, if the Roadrunners begin the playoffs with some combination of Perlini, Dvorak, Fischer, or Chychrun on the roster, they’d instantly become a strong contender to take home the Calder Cup in only their second year of existence.
Assigning younger players to the AHL for the playoffs is something Arizona has done before – the 2014-15 Portland Pirates were the most recent Coyotes’ affiliate to qualify for the postseason, and they utilized Dvorak and Perlini, then just 19 years old, on their playoff roster. Each recorded a point – Dvorak an assist in Game 2, and Perlini a goal in Game 4. 23-year-old goaltender Louis Domingue, who played in seven games with the Coyotes that year, started all five games of Portland’s 3-2 series loss to the eventual champion Manchester Monarchs.
With the season already long over in Arizona, the Coyotes must make a decision – do they send four players to Tucson to help the Roadrunners with their quest for the Calder Cup? Or do they reward their young players with an early offseason after solid sophomore campaigns? There doesn’t seem to be a wrong answer, but it’s a decision that Chayka and the Coyotes must make quickly.