The 2019-20 NHL trade deadline is right around the corner, and, with the Arizona Coyotes’ playoff hopes being very much up in the air at the current point in time, general manager John Chayka may be considering adding to his roster this year after a relatively quiet deadline in 2019.
The Coyotes need some help offensively, and it wouldn’t hurt to add a defenseman as well, but the club’s cap situation is not great at the moment. The team will be less than $400,000 under the salary cap ceiling once Jason Demers returns to the lineup, so any trade would have to involve money being sent back the other way. We discussed Michael Grabner as a player who could potentially be moved to accommodate a trade earlier in the week, but this is a complicated deadline for Chayka, which could involve a lot of moving parts.
Before looking at some players that Arizona might be interested in acquiring, let’s first take a look at the club’s remaining assets – the Coyotes’ sent their first-round pick to the New Jersey Devils in the Taylor Hall trade, and their third-round pick went to the Colorado Avalanche in the Carl Soderberg trade over the summer. This leaves the ‘Yotes with only their second, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh-round selections in 2020.
Coyotes Looking for Forward Help?
The Coyotes averaged the third-fewest goals per game last season (2.55), and, despite the club adding Taylor Hall, Phil Kessel, and Carl Soderberg to the mix, we’ve seen more of the same this season, as Arizona is presently ranked 25th in the NHL in offense with 2.68 goals per game.
Thus, Chayka could be looking to add another forward to his group to assist in his team’s playoff push. Here are a few names which are rumored to be available at the deadline:
Chris Kreider, New York Rangers
Chris Kreider is probably the best player currently available, but he might be out of Arizona’s price range – he’d cost a lot to acquire (the Coyotes no longer own their first-round pick), and the club would have to clear a lot of cap space (and likely have the Rangers retain salary) if they wanted to make this trade.
With that said, though, if Chayka is able to move Grabner, and can get the Rangers to retain 50 percent of Kreider’s $4.625 million salary, a deal could be made. Kreider would provide a boost to Arizona’s struggling offense, as he’s recorded 24 goals to go with 21 assists in 2019-20 and has five career 20-goal seasons under his belt.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Ottawa Senators
This is probably another item that Arizona can’t afford to shop for, but they need another center, and Jean-Gabriel Pageau is one of the best available. The 27-year-old is enjoying a career year on the offensive end of the ice with 24 goals and 15 assists in 58 games played, and he’s been outstanding in the faceoff circle as well, with a winning percentage of 53.0 percent across nearly 1,000 draws.
Pageau is playing on the final year of a contract paying him $3.1 million annually, but, as we previously mentioned, the Coyotes do not have a first-round pick this year. Acquiring one of the best players available requires buyers to surrender good assets, and it’s questionable whether or not Arizona could (or would) pay the price needed to bring in Pageau.
Vladislav Namestnikov, Ottawa Senators
If the Coyotes aren’t able to win the Pageau bidding war, they could look at another Senators player – Vladislav Namestnikov. The 27-year-old Russian has seen his star fade a little bit since he was traded from the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Rangers in the Ryan McDonagh trade at the 2018 deadline, but he’s still a serviceable NHL player at this point.
Namestnikov has 13 goals and 12 assists in 54 games this year, and he’s capable of contributing on both special teams units, as he’s averaging more than 1:40 per game on both the power play and penalty kill in Ottawa in 2019-20. If Grabner is moved, the Coyotes can fit Namestnikov’s $3.25 million cap hit under the ceiling without the Senators having to retain salary, which could lower the price.
Ilya Kovalchuk, Montreal Canadiens
With the Canadiens essentially eliminated from postseason contention (barring a miracle), they might be looking to get something for Ilya Kovalchuk, who the club got for free in January, as the veteran signed a one-year, $700,000 contract in Montreal after his deal with the Los Angeles Kings was terminated.
Kovalchuk’s tenure in Los Angeles was a disaster, but the 36-year-old has regained some of his form in Montreal, as he’s posted six goals and six assists in 20 games in la belle province. He’d fit in well on Arizona’s second power-play unit and probably wouldn’t cost very much to acquire at this point in his career.
Sam Bennett, Calgary Flames
The Calgary Flames aren’t expected to be sellers at this year’s trade deadline, but they could be looking to move on from Sam Bennett, who hasn’t lived up to the hype after being selected at No. 4 overall in 2014.
Bennett’s career-high in points is 36, reached in 2015-16, and he’s posted just 12 points this season, but he’s still just 23 years old and would add some grit, toughness, and physicality to Arizona’s lineup. He could be in need of a fresh start, and, since his value is at an all-time low, likely would cost next to nothing to add to the locker room.
Chayka Shopping For Another Defenseman?
The Coyotes have been plagued by injuries to their defensemen all season, but they’re now beginning to get healthy. Niklas Hjalmarsson has already returned to the lineup, and the return of Jason Demers could happen soon as well.
However, would Chayka feel comfortable with Aaron Ness or Ilya Lyubushkin playing big minutes down the stretch in the event of another injury? If not, there are a few options available:
Ron Hainsey, Ottawa Senators
As with Kovalchuk and Namestnikov, this might be a more realistic target for Arizona. The Coyotes could definitely use another veteran defenseman, and Ottawa’s Ron Hainsey might be a player in their price range.
The 38-year-old doesn’t provide much in the way of offense any longer, but he’s a 1,121-game veteran and plays the game the right way – he has a plus-seven rating this season on the league’s third-worst team. At 6-foot-3, he’s a big body, and, with just 11 points on the year, probably wouldn’t be very expensive to acquire. Hainsey is making $3.5 million this year, so Ottawa would have to retain salary, but he’d be a solid addition to Arizona’s blue line.
Sami Vatanen, New Jersey Devils
The Coyotes and New Jersey Devils already collaborated on the Taylor Hall trade earlier this year – would they work together again? If so, the ‘Yotes should be interested in defenseman Sami Vatanen. The former Anaheim Duck has enjoyed a solid NHL career thus far – he’s posted 194 points in 434 career games, and is in the final year of a contract paying him $4.875 million per year.
However, Vatanen is injured at the moment – he was placed on injured reserve with a bruised right leg that he suffered blocking a shot on Feb. 1, so that may scare off potential suitors or lower the price. The 28-year-old would be an upgrade over Jordan Oesterle on the left side, and would give Arizona another puck-moving defenseman for the stretch run.
Would Arizona Add a Goalie?
With Darcy Kuemper on his way back from a lower-body injury, the Coyotes appear to be set in goal for the stretch run, but what if Kuemper does not return anytime soon? What if he has another setback? Would Chayka feel comfortable with Adin Hill as the last line of defense in the event of another Antti Raanta injury?
If Chayka indeed wants to add another goaltender, there are a few that could be available.
Robin Lehner, Chicago Blackhawks
Robin Lehner’s story is absolutely incredible. Last season, he overcame mental health and substance abuse issues to earn Vezina Trophy consideration with the New York Islanders, and he took home the Bill Masterton Trophy as well.
The Isles rewarded Lehner by allowing him to leave via free agency, and he eventually landed with the Chicago Blackhawks on a one-year, $5 million contract. Despite going from the league’s best defensive team in 2018-19 to one of the worst, Lehner has managed to continue his solid play, as he’s posted a .918 SV% in Chicago on a team which allows by far the most shots against per game in the NHL.
If it looks like Kuemper will be unable to return soon enough to have an impact on Arizona’s 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs hopes, Lehner would form a pretty solid tandem with Raanta for the stretch run.
Jonathan Bernier, Detroit Red Wings
The 2019-20 Detroit Red Wings might be one of the worst teams in NHL history, but things would be so much worse this year if Jonathan Bernier was not a member of the team. The journeyman goaltender has been responsible for 13 of Detroit’s 15 wins this year, and boasts a .908 SV% and a 2.89 GAA on the season. The Red Wings’ other goalies – Jimmy Howard, Eric Comrie, and Calvin Pickard – have combined for a 2-26-2 record and a .878 SV%. Yikes.
Bernier is signed through the 2020-21 season at $3 million per year, so he’d be affordable, but he might not even be available at this point. Detroit will move on from Jimmy Howard this summer, and they may hang onto Bernier and make him their full-time starter next season. If he is available, though, the Coyotes should be interested in picking up some Raanta injury insurance.
Coyotes Week in Review
After an absolutely disastrous Eastern Conference road trip which ended with a 3-2 regulation loss at Ottawa on Feb. 13, the Coyotes returned home and hosted Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals on Saturday night to kick off their week.
Ovechkin entered the game two goals away from 700 for his career, and the Coyotes were determined to not end up on the highlight reel on this night – a solid all-around team effort enabled Antti Raanta to stop 36 of the 37 shots he faced on the evening, and goals from Christian Dvorak and Phil Kessel gave the Coyotes a lead they would not relinquish. Lawson Crouse then deposited an empty-netter in the Capitals’ net in the closing seconds, and Arizona took down one of the league’s top teams by a 3-1 final score.
The Coyotes then hosted the visiting New York Islanders on Monday afternoon at Gila River Arena for a Presidents’ Day matinee affair. Clayton Keller got the ‘Yotes on the board early with his first goal since Jan. 4, and Conor Garland added his 20th of the season early in the third period to double Arizona’s lead.
The Islanders ended Arizona’s shutout bid shortly thereafter on Anthony Beauvillier’s 18th of the year, but that’s as close as they would get, as Raanta once again was outstanding in stopping 28 of 29 shots en route to the Coyotes’ second consecutive victory by a 2-1 score.
With a two-game winning streak under their belts, the Coyotes hit the road for a tough Central Division back-to-back starting on Wednesday evening in North Texas against the Dallas Stars. As has been the case in the team’s recent road games, Arizona got off to a slow start in this one, and the opponent made them pay. Jakob Chychrun took a high-sticking penalty less than a minute into the game, and Corey Perry scored his 28th career goal against the Coyotes – the most he’s scored against any team – on the ensuing power play.
Dallas then returned the favor with some undisciplined play of their own – captain Jamie Benn was tossed for a hit from behind on Coyotes’ captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and Taylor Hall potted his 15th of the season during the resulting five-minute major to tie the game.
The parade to the penalty box continued, though, and Dallas made Arizona pay once again with Carl Soderberg in the box for a hooking penalty. Christian Fischer then scored his sixth of the year late in the second period to tie the game at two, but the Coyotes could not get it done in the third frame. Late in the game, Fischer’s lax defensive-zone coverage allowed Dallas defenseman Jamie Oleksiak to walk in and fire from the ladies’ tees, and he beat Adin Hill to put the Stars ahead 3-2.
The Coyotes pushed for the equalizer, but they could not score that elusive third goal despite firing 41 shots at Ben Bishop and lost, 3-2, to fall to 0-10-3 in their last 13 games played at the American Airlines Center.
A Look Ahead
The Coyotes won’t have very long to dwell on their tough loss in Dallas, though, as they’ll be back in action on Thursday evening against the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues.
The Blues are enjoying a hangover-less 2019-20 campaign, as they own the West’s best record entering play on Thursday, but the Coyotes have managed to win both of the previous contests between the two teams – they picked up a 3-2 shootout victory at the Enterprise Center back on Nov. 12, then earned a 3-1 triumph over the Blues on New Year’s Eve. They’ll be looking to complete the season sweep in this one, which will get started at 7:00 P.M. local time in the Show Me State (6:00 P.M. in Arizona).
The Coyotes will then return to the Valley for a three-game homestand starting on Saturday evening against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Let’s not sugarcoat things here – this is going to be an incredibly tough contest for Arizona. The Bolts are 23-2-1 since Dec. 23 and have been absolutely demolishing teams lately, as they boast a plus-47 goal differential over that span.
The Lightning have more wins since Christmas than four NHL teams have earned all season, but Tampa Bay has struggled at Gila River Arena as of late – they’ve lost two of their last three contests there, including a lopsided 7-1 decision last season on Oct. 27, 2018. Puck drop for this Kachina Saturday is scheduled for 6:00 P.M.
Another Florida team will then come to town on Tuesday night as Arizona will face off against the Panthers to close out their week. There were high hopes for the Joel Quenneville-led Panthers entering 2019-20, but the team’s big free-agent signing, goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, has largely disappointed and is the chief reason for Florida’s relatively tenuous playoff situation at the moment.
After signing a seven-year, $70 million contract on July 1, Bobrovsky has been a huge disappointment this season – his .897 SV% and 3.31 GAA are among the worst in the league, and he’ll need to be better if Florida wishes to qualify for, and have success in, the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs. This one will be a 7:00 P.M. puck drop at Gila River Arena.
Pacific Division Roundup
For what seems like the 20th time this season, we have a new leader in the Pacific on this Thursday – it’s now the Edmonton Oilers. Despite losing Connor McDavid to a lower-body injury five games ago, Leon Draisaitl has willed his team forward and the Oilers look like they’ll be in contention for a division title all the way until the end of the season. Here’s a look at how Arizona’s other division rivals fared last week:
Anaheim Ducks (24-29-7, 55 points)
- Last week: 1-3-0 (6-0 L vs CGY, 5-1 W at VAN, 6-4 L at CGY, 4-1 L vs FLA)
- Analysis: So much for all of the improvement Anaheim supposedly made as of late – after navigating a tough road trip with a 3-0-2 record, the Ducks suffered three blowout losses last week, while also blowing out the Canucks on the road on Saturday night. The Ducks will play 12 of their next 14 in the State of California – the schedule will be favorable as the season winds down, but any wins from here on out will do nothing but harm Anaheim’s chances to earn the No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft.
- Player of the week: Adam Henrique – 3 goals, 14 SOG
- This week: Fri vs COL, Sun vs VGK, Tue vs EDM
Calgary Flames (31-24-6, 68 points)
- Last week: 2-1-0 (6-0 W at ANA, 8-4 L vs CHI, 6-4 W vs ANA)
- Analysis: The Flames managed to hold onto a wild-card spot last week, but they’ve defeated exactly one current playoff team so far in February, and are 4-5-0 overall in the month. Three of the next five games for Calgary will come against either the Boston Bruins or Tampa Bay Lightning – those have the potential to not be pretty, so the Flames have to continue getting it done against lesser competition when the opportunity arises.
- Player of the week: Andrew Mangiapane – 3 goals, 3 assists, +3
- This week: Fri vs BOS, Sun at DET, Tue at BOS
Edmonton Oilers (32-21-7, 71 points)
- Last week: 2-1-1 (3-1 L at TB, 4-1 W at FLA, 4-3 OTW at CAR, 2-1 OTL vs BOS)
- Analysis: Leon Draisaitl has put the Oilers on his back since teammate Connor McDavid went down following a Feb. 8 game against the Nashville Predators – he’s got 10 points in 5 contests since, and has proved that there’s more to Edmonton than just McDavid. Barring a late-season collapse, it looks like there will be playoff hockey in Oil Country for just the third time since the 2004-05 lockout.
- Player of the week: Leon Draisaitl – 2 goals, 4 assists, 11 SOG
- This week: Fri vs MIN, Sun at LA, Tue at ANA, Wed at VGK
Los Angeles Kings (21-34-5, 47 points)
- Last week: 1-1-0 (3-1 W at COL, 6-3 L at WPG)
- Analysis: The Kings’ highlight of the season may have come in Saturday’s Stadium Series game at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO – Tyler Toffoli scored a hat trick in his final game as a King, and Los Angeles ruined the party with a 3-1 win at Falcon Stadium. Toffoli and Alec Martinez were moved last week ahead of the trade deadline – will we see more players shipped out in the coming days?
- Player of the week: Anze Kopitar – 4 assists, +4
- This week: Thu vs FLA, Sat vs COL, Sun vs EDM, Wed vs PIT
San Jose Sharks (26-29-4, 56 points)
- Last week: 2-1-0 (3-2 W at WPG, 2-0 W at MIN, 5-3 L vs FLA)
- Analysis: The Sharks have showed signs of life in recent weeks, as they’ve picked up wins over four Western Conference playoff hopefuls over their last six games. They were blown out in their other two games over that span, but progress is being made.
- Player of the week: Brent Burns – 4 assists, +2, 14 SOG
- This week: Thu at NJ, Sat at NYR, Sun at NYI, Tue at PHI
Vancouver Canucks (32-22-6, 70 points)
- Last week: 0-1-1 (5-1 L vs ANA, 4-3 SOL vs MIN)
- Analysis: The Canucks, after posting a 7-1-1 record from Jan. 11 to Feb. 2, have come back to Earth a bit, as they’re just 2-4-1 over their last seven contests. This has allowed their lead in the Pacific Division to slip away, and they’ll need to get things figured out in a hurry – four of the next five games will be played on the road, where Vancouver is just 13-15-2 on the year, and the lone home contest will come against the Boston Bruins. Tyler Toffoli will help, but the Canucks need to figure out how to win on the road.
- Player of the week: Quinn Hughes – 3 assists, +1, 8 SOG
- This week: Sat vs BOS, Tue at MTL
Vegas Golden Knights (31-22-8, 70 points)
- Last week: 3-0-0 (6-5 OTW vs STL, 1-0 W vs NYI, 3-2 W vs WSH)
- Analysis: The Golden Knights returned home to the friendly confines of T-Mobile Arena last week, and they rattled off three straight wins over three current playoff teams. After adding Alec Martinez to the blue line, it looks like Vegas is primed to make a run at a second Pacific Division title in three seasons.
- Player of the week: Jonathan Marchessault – 2 goals, 2 assists, +2, 18 SOG
- This week: Thu vs TB, Sat vs FLA, Sun at ANA, Wed vs EDM
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A lifelong Phoenix resident, Louis has been following hockey since 2010, has covered the Arizona Coyotes since 2015, and has been playing hockey since 2020. So far, Louis has visited eight NHL cities, and one of his personal goals is to eventually make it to all 31 NHL arenas. For any questions or concerns, contact the writer via Twitter @LouisPannone.