Now that’s how you move to rebuild – dramatically and emphatically.
In the season preview of the Coyotes we asked whether this team was trending up or down, after missing the playoffs by just two points last year? While it was obvious for much of the year that the answer was that the team was just not talented enough to compete in the tough Western Conference, it was less clear what they would do about it. With new ownership and a shaky market, would the Coyotes dismantle the current roster in order to set up the future? GM Don Maloney showed that he and ownership were committed to a long-term plan to build a better team.
Starting Saturday, the Coyotes moved their top two pending unrestricted free agents, center Antoine Vermette and defensemen Zybnek Michalek, and arguably their biggest trade chip, offensive defenseman Keith Yandle, as well as depth defenseman Chris Summers, a fourth-round pick in 2015, and a 2015 conditional third-round pick (if Michalek, who suffered a concussion on February 16, isn’t able to play for St. Louis), for a haul of draft picks and prospects.
Their return includes:
- Top prospect winger Anthony Duclair (NYR)
- Defenseman John Moore (NYR)
- Prospect defenseman Klas Dahlbeck (CHI)
- Prospect center Maxim Letunov (STL)
- A 2015 first-round pick (CHI)
- A 2015 second-round pick (NYR)
- A 2016 first-round pick (NYR)
Just as importantly, the trades will keep the Coyotes in the race for last place in the NHL and a great shot at either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel when the draft comes around this summer. Having one of those two players – widely considered truly elite, possibly generational talents – alongside current top prospects Max Domi and Brandon Perlini, and the newly added Duclair, will be more NHL-ready young talent up front than the ‘Yotes have maybe ever had.
While there is some reason to be skeptical of the value of late first round picks (like the ones they got from Chicago and the Rangers) those are still assets that can be used in future trades even if the Coyotes don’t actually draft players with them. You can build a winner with those pieces added to Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Mikkel Boedker, Brandon Gormley, and veterans like Shane Doan, Sam Gagner, and Martin Hanzal to provide guidance to the young guys.
The rest of the Coyotes season (19 games) is going to be ugly. They could lose every remaining game. Whatever the size of the Arizona Coyotes fan base before the past few days, they should be happy with what their team did, and if hockey has a shot in that market these moves are going to help more than hurt in the long run. These moves also make Arizona a much more interesting place to look for fantasy players as there will be high-end talent developing in the desert in coming years. Rebuilding a broken team is hard, but genuinely committing to it is the hardest and first step.