While teams should generally be looking to improve their rosters at any given time — and tanking is no fun — it’s hard to envision a single deal with an eye to improving next season’s product making sense for Arizona.
The team undoubtedly needs to fill out its roster, and the deals it’s considering are unlikely to involve its most valuable draft picks, but anything with even the slightest hint of “win-now” framing would be a mistake.
The most obvious reason for that is Arizona has almost no chance of competing in a meaningful way during the upcoming season. The Coyotes are coming off a 28-40-14 campaign where they posted a minus-70 goal differential.
Arizona has one legit star in Clayton Keller, a solid top-six center in Nick Schmaltz, and a crew of intriguing 25-and-under players who can play but are still finding their footing at the NHL level. The defense corps lost its top two blueliners from last season — Jakob Chychrun and Shayne Gostisbehere — and the crease is dominated by a ‘tender with a career .899 save percentage in Karel Vejmelka.
The bones of a competitive roster aren’t there, and while the team has a projected $30.15 million in cap space, it will have to overpay in a dubious free agent market to get players to join a subpar team playing in a college arena with its future in flux. Chances are jumping into that pool with reckless abandon would be unwise in the long term.
Arizona needs to fill out its roster somehow, but pulling from its haul of draft picks to do so would be nonsensical. Along with a solid prospect pool, the Coyotes have an incredible stash of picks — including the sixth and 12th selections in the 2023 draft — which might be their best asset right now.
Over the next three years, the team will be able to make 22 selections in the first three rounds, including an astounding nine second-round picks. That is the stuff that incredible farm systems are made of.
In other leagues like the NBA or NFL, having too many picks can be an issue as there are only so many roster spots to go around, but the Coyotes could easily accommodate that many players by choosing a combination of CHL guys, European prospects, and NCAA-bound youngsters. There is no pressure to deal from a position of strength, which could help the Coyotes build a future winner.
The elephant in the room with this franchise is always the financial situation, but Arizona shouldn’t feel any kind of urgency surrounding 2023-24 with the team returning to Mullett Arena. In a scenario where the Coyotes had already relocated for the upcoming season, making some moves to improve the on-ice product and drive attendance would be more understandable.
By staying in a market the team is likely to leave soon, the Coyotes should feel empowered to continue bottoming out this season. Their previous modus operandi of taking on bad contracts in exchange for draft capital still makes sense for where this group is at in its competitive cycle, and other roster spots could be filled by promoting players from the AHL — or finding bargain free agents hoping to rebuild their value.
Any draft pick they deal for a player whose primary function is to help the 2023-24 team would be a foolish.
Once the Coyotes have a permanent home, they will be able to function more smoothly in the free-agent market and supplement a group of young players that should get better and better with time as the team puts its hoard of draft picks to use. They might even accelerate the timeline to generate short-term interest, which would be justifiable even if it didn’t pan out.
For now, sacrificing even the tiniest piece of the future for an improved 2023-24 squad is a tough look. The Coyotes shouldn’t view their massive stash of draft picks as a surplus to deal from.
If anything, it’s a stockpile to be added to.
Source: Yahoo Sports