For the first time in his 10-year career, Martin Hanzal will be playing for a team in the NHL that isn’t the Arizona Coyotes.
After various reports of a deal being finalized emerged late Sunday afternoon, a deal of Hanzal, right wing Ryan White and a 2017 fourth-round pick to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for a 2017 first-round pick, 2018 second-round pick, conditional 2019 fourth-round pick and AHL minor league center Grayson Downing became official.
If Minnesota wins one playoff series, the conditional pick will be in the third round and if the Wild win at least two, it will be in the second round. For the conditions to kick in, Hanzal must play in at least 50 percent of the playoff games. The Coyotes will also retain 50 percent of his salary this season.
“It’s where we’re at right now with our team, with our group,” general manager John Chayka said. “We felt it was prudent to continue to build and find future assets that can turn into good young players that can grow with this group of players we’ve got.”
Hanzal has 16 goals and 10 assists this year for a total of 26 points. Overall, he finished with 117 goals and 196 assists for 313 points in 608 regular-season games to go along with four goals and 12 points in 23 playoff games.
The 28-year-old White has 13 points in 46 games with the Coyotes this season. The Coyotes were White’s third NHL team for the third-round pick in the 2006 NHL Draft.
Minnesota currently boasts the Western Conference’s best record, but a pair of recent losses to Chicago at home likely convinced Wild GM Chuck Fletcher they needed more help for their all-in approach to winning the Stanley Cup.
“We’re just putting our chips in the middle of the table for this year,” Fletcher told the Star-Tribune. “We think our players deserve the best chance possible to compete [for the Stanley Cup].”
As Arizona Sports’ Craig Morgan noted, Hanzal’s situation with the team was complicated in regards to trading him or keeping him.
An invaluable piece for a hockey team as a defensive matchup center and a net presence, his worth has been clear numerous times in Coyotes victories this year, including a win over Pittsburgh in early February after which goalie Mike Smith called Hanzal, “a monster.”
On the flip side, he hasn’t played more than 65 games in a season since 2009-2010, he is on an expiring contract and the team was unable to sign him to an extension before the season.
“We talked about a deal in the summer so its not like we didn’t have an idea of what it would take,” Chayka said. “It’s about trade-offs and alternatives.”
It remains to be seen how the Coyotes will fill our their roster this season, but a recall of center Laurent Dauphin from Tucson is a possibility. As for next season, the Coyotes like the progress Christian Dvorak has made, they hope Dylan Strome and Clayton Keller will make the leap to the NHL next season and veteran Brad Richardson is still under contract
“The one thing the young guys can look at and those key young guys are going to hopefully be cornerstones of this, we did this to help them in the future,” coach Dave Tippett said. “We did this to become better, and this franchise has kind of hovered along here for a few years. There’s got to be steps put in place to get a lot deeper, get on par with other teams with depth and quality of players, things like that. These are all steps you have to take, and it’s not the good part of the game.”
Hanzal said he expected the trade when no discussions of a new deal with his agent, Craig Oster, materialized.
“I didn’t want it to happen, but you kind of accept it’s coming at some point,” he said. “It’s been a good 10 years but I’m really looking forward to being in the playoffs and stepping on the ice to help Minnesota. They’re one of the best teams in the Western Conference so it’s a good opportunity to play for a Stanley Cup.”
The 30-year-old Hanzal was selected No. 17 in the 2005 NHL Draft and was playing his 10th season with the Coyotes.
A big body and defensive-minded presence, he scored a career-high 41 points last season. He is currently on pace to beat his best total of goals (16) this season (16).
The center position has been a big question mark for the Coyotes all season and will become an even bigger one with the loss of Hanzal.
Hanzal’s 117 goals, 196 assists, 313 points and 537 penalty minutes are all ranked fifth all-time in Coyotes franchise history.
He joins Derek Morris, Teppo Numminen, Keith Yandle, Zbynek Michalek and Shane Doan as one of the six players in franchise history to play at least 500 games for the team.
Hanzal was the second-longest-tenured member of the team after Doan. The two along with Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Vrbata and Mike Smith were the five players remaining from the 2011-2012 team that was one playoff series short of a Stanley Cup Finals appearance.
Hanzal said it was particularly hard to say goodbye to captain Shane Doan.
“He was like a second father to me; he’s been helping me since Day 1 and we were good friends,” Hanzal said. “We played cards on the plane for like nine years. Nobody could beat us.”
Teammate and fellow Czech Radim Vrbata took several moments to compose himself when discussing Hanzal’s departure.
“It wasn’t a shock but it hits you,” Vrbata said. “When I came to the team it was his first year so we kind of started together.
“I would see him grow into the player he is today and into the leader that he is for this team. He was so important to this team every single season. We’re going to miss him hockey-wise and off the ice as well.”
Arizona Sports’ Craig Morgan contributed to this article.
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