Coyotes president of hockey operations and general manager John Chayka flew to Toronto on Friday to meet with assistant coaching candidates. He expects the staff to announce at least one assistant next week.
Chayka would not comment on potential candidates, but a source told Arizona Sports that former Coyotes defenseman and rumored contender Teppo Numminen is not on the team’s list of candidates.
“We’re getting further down the road,” Chayka said. “There’s a lot of good coaches so more than anything, it’s about finding the right fit for the group and finding guys that have a certain personality.
“Rick Tocchet has got strengths and weaknesses. He’s human just like everybody else. But with the things that make Rick special, we want to allow him to continue to do those things and then fill in people around him; find people to come in and complement or supplement him.”
Former associate coach Jim Playfair opted to part ways with the team after head coach Dave Tippett did so before the NHL Draft. Former assistant Newell Brown was relieved of his duties in April, but assistant coach John Slaney is still with the team and Chayka said: “John will continue to be a part of our organization,” with the possibility he serves as an assistant with Tucson of the AHL.
Goalie coach Jon Elkin also signed a one-year deal this summer.
Chayka touched on a few other topics Friday. Here’s a rundown.
Chayka said center Dylan Strome’s body has filled out, pushing his weight over 200 pounds.
“I liked the way he looked at development camp,” Chayka said. “He’s stronger, sturdier and the legs have a little more pop in them. Sometimes, big centers take a little longer to come along but he’s certainly doing all the right things.”
Strome has been working regularly with Coyotes skating coach Dawn Braid.
“Technically, he has become very sound with no real flaws,” Chayka said. “When we got him a few years ago, there were a lot of little areas we wanted to clean up. Now, it’s just about getting more strength in his stride and we saw noticeable improvement about halfway through the summer. He has another month here to finish it off.”
Chayka did not rule out the possibility of Strome starting in the AHL next season, as wing Brendan Perlini did last year, but he did not expect it either.
“His play will determine his path,” Chayka said. “He’s the kind of player that has NHL ability at this point but if he comes in and it’s clear to us he could use some time in the American League, I don’t think we can be afraid of doing what’s in the best interest of the player.
“We think Dylan is going to be an impact player for a long time so how do we help him? At the same time, my expectation is he’s going to come in and have a very strong camp.”
The Coyotes will participate in a rookie tournament hosted by the San Jose Sharks from Sept. 9-12. Arizona will play three games in the tournament vs. Anaheim on Sept 9, vs. Colorado on Sept. 11, and vs. San Jose on Sept. 12. All games will be played at Solar 4 America Ice at San Jose.
“I just think it create a more competitive environment, playing different teams in a tournament-style event,” Chayka said. “It’s also good to see more teams instead of just one organization.”
Twenty-six of the NHL’s 30 teams competed in rookie/prospect tournaments last season. The Coyotes, Los Angeles Kings, Philadelphia Flyers and New York Islanders were the only teams that did not.
“The more team atmosphere and bonding we can create, the better, and an extra game can always help with evaluation,” Chayka said. “More games at the front end helps the evaluation process when you get down to the main camp.”
MARTINOOK, DUCLAIR STILL UNSIGNED
Restricted free agents Jordan Martinook and Anthony Duclair are the team’s only NHL roster players still unsigned. Martinook has an arbitration hearing on July 26. His agent, Jeff Helperl, said Thursday that the sides are “close” on a deal but he thinks the Coyotes may prefer to go to arbitration.
Chayka declined comment on those talks and the talks with Duclair, who is expected to sign a short-term deal.
ONE MORE TRADE?
Chayka admitted the heavy lifting is over for the summer after acquiring defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, center Derek Stepan and goalie Antti Raanta, but he would not close the book on another trade.
“I’m still trying to get one more thing done,” he said. “We’ll see.”
The Coyotes would still like a better split between right shots and left shot both at forward and on defense.
Prospect Christian Fischer is the only right-handed wing on the expected roster. Lefties Duclair and Tobias Rieder will likely play the right side while Jamie McGinn, Jordan Martinook and Clayton Keller are capable.
Luke Schenn and Adam Clendening are the only right-handed defenseman on the roster. Hjalmarsson, a lefty, will play the right side and left-handed Alex Goligoski can as well.
Derek Stepan is the only right-handed center.
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