Today marks the start of NHL free agency and as many teams will no doubt go all in on players that could be the missing piece at a Cup run, other teams like the Arizona Coyotes could remain quiet. Most analysts would agree that the most pressing need for the Coyotes is to strengthen their goaltending.
As the team enters year two of the rebuild, it would not make much sense for them to go out and acquire any of the big name players available. The roster is pretty set, sans a few forwards and another goalie or two.
It would make the most sense for the Coyotes to add a veteran goalie who could help mentor starter Karel Vejmelka, provide quality starts, and play 25-30 games. This team will not take any steps further without solidifying the net.
Plain and simple.
As far as other free agents that could be added, expect the team to fill a few forward spots with role players or a depth center. Nick Cousins would be a great signing, as well as players like Darren Helm or Nick Bjugstad.
Bjugstad is not the top line player that he was drafted to be when he won the Mr. Hockey Award (given to the top high school hockey player in the state if Minnesota). If you saw him centering the fourth line for the Minnesota Wild the past two seasons, you understand the size, intensity, and leadership he brings. Plus, he’s a good guy and makes it easy to root for him.
Do not expect the team to go after your Chris Tierney or Ryan Strome type players. It is not going to happen.
The biggest addition should come in the form of a trade as teams will try to unload some of their larger contracts to clear cap space. The Coyotes are notorious for coming in on the receiving end, as they need draft picks and have the cap room.
The Philadelphia Flyers are rumored to be trying to move James van Riemsdyk and his $5 million salary (they paid $1 million of it so the whoever agrees to a trade would be on the hook for $4 million). Seattle, Arizona, and Buffalo are names that have been kicked around. I would guess that after today, JVR will be on the Coyotes. He would actually be a salary dump addition that would benefit the team beyond the draft pick/s compensation (the guy can still contribute offensively).
The Coyotes need speed, specifically on the backend. They have a solid puck moving defenseman in Shayne Gostisbehere but need to get faster. The team is pretty set on defense but if they really want to turn this around, they should follow the blue print of the Colorado Avalanche. The Colorado Avalanche were one of the worst teams in the league back in 2016 and just won the Stanley Cup because of Cale Makar, their top line, and speed.
Boy, oh boy they are so much faster than any other team, especially on the backend. The Coyotes need to find that speed, and then find some more.
There is only one Cale Makar. They aren’t going to find their own version. Makar is like a Lamborghini, brand new with all of the features. They could use an older model with more miles on it though.
What if the Coyotes worked out a deal with the San Jose Sharks and brought in Erik Karlsson?
Karlsson is 32 years old and has five years remaining on his 8 year/$92 million contract ($11.5 million annually). Nobody wants this contract, so hear me out.
San Jose has looked into moving Karlsson to get out from under his contract as they are pushing close to the cap ceiling. They have not moved past anything other than “preliminary talks” with any teams because of his salary.
What if the Sharks were willing to eat a significant portion of his salary? I know this is a long shot, but that would free up major cap space for them and the Coyotes could easily afford Karlsson for $6.75 million per season for the next five years. His leadership, skill set, and speed could be what the team needs. The Coyotes are not desperate for blue line help but having another puck moving defenseman to pair with Jakob Chychrun would give the Coyotes two quarterbacks on the powerplay (the Avalanche have Makar and Devon Toews) and speed on the backend.
This trade probably will not happen. Neither team has shown interest and Karlsson has a no-movement clause. It would be pretty cool though to have a player that resembles Captain Morgan on the team.
I would expect the JVR trade sometime today.
Be on the lookout for free agent signing, trades, and more as the day rolls on. Stay tuned.