On March 1, 2015, the Arizona Coyotes and New York Rangers were teams headed in different directions. The Coyotes were 20-36-7, third from the bottom in the Western Conference and had lost their last nine games in regulation. Arizona had just barely missed the playoffs the previous two seasons and was getting worse.
The New York Rangers were 38-17-6, good enough for third in the Eastern Conference. They reached the Stanley Cup Final the previous season, losing to the Los Angeles Kings in five games. They were looking to return and looking to win this time.
With the Coyotes looking to rebuild and the Rangers looking to add an important piece to their playoff run, the teams agreed on a blockbuster trade. On the eve of the trade deadline, the Coyotes sent star defenseman Keith Yandle, along with defenseman Chris Summers and a fourth-round pick in the 2016 NHL draft to the Rangers in exchange for top forward prospect Anthony Duclair, defenseman John Moore, a first-round pick in the 2016 NHL draft, and a second-round pick in the 2015 NHL draft.
What the Rangers Received
The Rangers were looking for a top-four, puck-moving defenseman to quarterback their power play. They got exactly that in Keith Yandle. He had accumulated 41 points and 26 power-play points with Arizona in 63 games. The previous season, Yandle scored 53 points, with 31 of them coming on the power play. He was also a durable player and hadn’t missed an NHL game in over five seasons. With one more season left on his contract, he wasn’t a pure rental.
When Yandle joined the Rangers, he didn’t disappoint. He had 11 points in 21 games and provided another 11 points in 19 playoff games that year. He did everything the Rangers expected of him, but New York fell short of their goal and lost in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The following season he had five goals and 42 assists, but the Rangers again disappointed in the playoffs. Yandle signed with the Florida Panthers as a free agent the following offseason.
Defenseman Chris Summers only played in six NHL games with the Rangers without recording a point. The 2006 first-round draft pick never became more than an extra depth defenseman and spent most of his time in the American Hockey League. In 2017, he signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins organization as a free agent.
That 2016 fourth-round pick became Finnish defenseman Tarmo Reunanen. The left-handed, puck-moving defenseman still plays in Europe and it is still unknown if and how he will develop in North America.
What the Coyotes Received
In the midst of a nine-game losing streak, the Coyotes were going downhill fast. It became clear that it was time for the franchise to start rebuilding. Center Antione Vermette and defenseman Zbynek Michalek were also traded within the next 24 hours.
Yandle had long been a staple of the Coyotes’ blue line, but the emergence of Oliver Ekman-Larsson made him expendable. There was also hope in Arizona that they would be able to land the highly touted Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel in that year’s draft.
Anthony Duclair was the prized return in this trade. He had just come off an extremely impressive run for Canada at the 2015 World Junior Hockey Championships. He played on a line that completely dominated the tournament with Max Domi, a highly touted Coyotes prospect expected to make his NHL debut the following season. The chemistry those two showed at that tournament had Arizona fans incredibly excited.
Duclair played 18 games for the Rangers, recording one goal and six assists before being sent back to the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. In his rookie season with the Coyotes, he made an immediate impact scoring 20 goals and 24 assists and he received a vote for the Calder Trophy.
The 2016-17 season was less impressive. He only scored five goals in 58 NHL games. For part of the season, Duclair was demoted to the Tucson Roadrunners of the American Hockey League (AHL). After the sophomore slump, the Coyotes only offered him a one-year contract as a restricted free agent. Through nine games to start the 2017-18 season, Duclair has two goals and two assists.
Defenseman John Moore finished the 2014-15 season with the Coyotes but signed with the New Jersey Devils as a free agent the following offseason.
Coyotes Drafted Well
The Coyotes flipped the 2015 second-round pick they received from the Rangers into two third-round picks. Those two picks became Swedish forward Jens Looke and Canadian goalie Adin Hill. Looke joined the Roadrunners for the 2017-18 season. He has one goal and one assist in five AHL games.
Adin Hill is now the top goalie prospect in the Coyotes system. Hill played most of the 2016-17 season with the Roadrunners and made his NHL debut on October 17, 2017, against the Dallas Stars. With the struggles of Louis Domingue, it’s possible that Hill will get an extended look with the Coyotes this season.
The Coyotes traded the 2016 first-round pick from the Rangers to the Detroit Red Wings so they could move up four spots in that draft. They took on the Pavel Datsyuk contract in that trade, but in return were able to draft defenseman Jakob Chychrun.
Chychrun made the Coyotes roster as an eighteen-year-old in 2016-17. He played 68 games during his rookie season and has shown the potential to become an elite defenseman in the NHL. He has yet to play in 2017-18 due to a knee injury suffered during the offseason.
For the Rangers, anything less than a Stanley Cup had to be considered a failure. They gave up high draft picks as well as their top forward prospect. Yandle did his part, but the Rangers ultimately failed to deliver in the playoffs.
For the Coyotes, this move marked the beginning of a rebuild now in its third season. The trade essentially netted them three key pieces for the future in Duclair, Chychrun, and Hill. The book is still being written on those three, but if just one of them grows into their full potential, this trade must be seen as a win for the Arizona franchise.