On the day of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft in Chicago, transactions immediately took off for the Arizona Coyotes. As of the eve of draft day, Craig Morgan reported that the Coyotes had no starting goalie, head coach, confirmed captain, number one center, and president of hockey operations. A lot of missing pieces, but the Coyotes managed to fill some of those spots in a heartbeat as they acquired center Derek Stepan and goal tender Antti Raanta from the New York Rangers in exchange for the seventh pick and defenseman Anthony DeAngelo.
The Rangers were in need of a young right-handed defenseman and the Coyotes were able to provide one along with a key draft pick to make the offer even more enticing. Ultimately, the Rangers would select center Lias Anderson. Along with acquiring Stepan and Raanta, the Coyotes also traded away defenseman Connor Murphy and forward Laurent Dauphin to the Chicago Blackhawks for defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson.
Hjalmarsson, 30, has spent the last 10 seasons, recording 23 goals, 120 assists, and 143 points with Chicago. The Swedish defenseman was shocked to hear that he was traded from Chicago, but he is excited to get things started in Arizona.
“It was a lot of mixed emotions in the beginning there, the first 24 hours,” he said. “But at the same time, I’m excited for the new opportunity and being part of a rebuild in Arizona with a lot of new faces and a lot of young and promising players. So, I’m excited.”
The Swede is currently in a five-year $20.5 million contract, but the contract did have a modified no-trade clause. . Hjalmarsson is most likely going to be paired up with Arizona’s top offensive defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. The two Swedes played alongside each other during the 2014 Olympics. This ultimately had an effect on his choice in putting the Coyotes on his list of teams.
John Chayka is certainly pleased with the progress from the draft. “I think we’ve got some areas we can improve, but you add a No. 1 center, a top-pairing ‘D’ and a starting goalie, that’s quite a bit in 24 hours. So, we’ll start there.”
Before the Entry Level Draft, the Coyotes acquired forward Nick Cousins and goalie prospect Merrick Madsen from the Philadelphia Flyers for forward prospect Brendan Warren and a 2018 fifth round pick. Cousins registered 16 points, six goals and 10 assists, in 60 games for Philadelphia. The Coyotes have been making a lot of noise so far, but are they ready to take the next step into the playoffs for the first time in five seasons? Will any of these new additions improve their play or will this be another developmental year for the young prospects; learning to play with the newly acquired veterans? Regardless, the future is bright in Arizona.
Another offseason event coming up on July 1st, is free agency. Could the Coyotes be picking up any free agents this offseason? GM John Chayka stated in an interview about the upcoming free agency, “I don’t see any glaring holes… I categorize our approach to free agency as patient,” he said. “We’re not going to be overly aggressive this year…”
Could the Coyotes just pass up on this years’ free agents and ‘patiently’ let it blow over? Blow over wouldn’t necessarily be the correct phrase as the Coyotes signed defenseman Adam Clendening. The American defenseman, 24, has played with multiple teams in his short NHL career. He’s played for the Blackhawks, Canucks, Penguins, Oilers, Rangers and now the Coyotes. The Coyotes’ GM thinks Clendening will be a “good addition to our team.” The Coyotes have also signed center Michael Latta to a one-year, two-way contract. Whether or not he will be with the Coyotes or their AHL team the Tucson Roadrunners is unknown, but his presence is needed to fill the role of center man. The Canadian centerman has played all of his 113 NHL games with the Washington Capitals only notching four goals, 13 assists, and 17 points overall.
Along with Latta, the Coyotes signed forward Emerson Etem from the Anaheim Ducks to a one-year, two-way contract. Etem has only 22 goals in 173 games in the NHL. He only played 3 games last season due to a knee injury. Other than those three additions in free agency, the Coyotes lost a good chunk of players from last season as they lost right winger Radim Vrbata as he signed a one-year contract worth $2.5 million with the Florida Panthers. They also lost other players such as forward Alex Burmistrov to the Vancouver Canucks and Josh Jooris to the Carolina Hurricanes.
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