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Coyotes stand pat at trade deadline with eye toward offseason moves

Arizona Coyotes general manager John Chayka speaks to the media at an introductory press conference at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Ariz. on July 13, 2017. (Matt Layman/Arizona Sports)

Glendale, Ariz. — Coyotes general manager John Chayka had two goals as the Monday NHL Trade Deadline approached: strengthen the Tucson Roadrunners for an American Hockey League playoff run, and improve the NHL roster, now and for the future.

Chayka addressed the AHL goal by acquiring forwards Jordan Maletta and Carter Camper (42 points in 53 games) from the Columbus Blue Jackets for forward Ryan Kujawinski; and forward Pierre-Cedric Labrie and puck-moving defenseman Trevor Murphy from the Nashville Predators for forward Tyler Gaudet and defenseman John Ramage (and forward Derek Army from the Milwaukee Admirals).

With limited options and insufficient offers for Coyotes on expiring contracts, Chayka passed on the NHL goal while laying the groundwork for future discussions this offseason.

“We felt there was a value to our group for some of those guys,” he said. “In order for us to move them, it had to exceed the value that they were going to provide for our young players and what we’ve got going on here.”

The Coyotes have not been idle on the trade front this season. They made two significant deals, trading forward Anthony Duclair to the Chicago Blackhawks for forward Richard Panik on Jan. 10; and trading forward Tobias Rieder and goalie Scott Wedgewood to the Los Angeles Kings for goalie Darcy Kuemper on Wednesday.

Chayka felt patience was the better option on Monday.

“Any move done today is done with the opportunity cost of making a move in the future,” he said. “We decided that we were better to hold our powder, keep it dry and allow us to try to line up some larger moves like we made last year with adding [Derek] Stepan, [Niklas] Hjalmarsson, [Antti] Raanta and [Jason] Demers. We’re looking to be aggressive to continue to improve our group.”

Chayka said the Coyotes have not fully decided what their needs are.

“We’ll have an opportunity over these last 20 games to get a look at some young players down in Tucson as well and continue to see how far we can get with some of these young players,” he said. “At that point at the end of the season, we’ll sit down and take a hard look at what we need to add and improve upon, but right now we have maximum flexibility and we have significant assets in order to go out and make some significant moves.”

Some mistook the Coyotes’ lack of activity on Monday for satisfaction with the team. Chayka likes some of the pieces the Coyotes have, including the top five on the blue line, Raanta, Stepan and young forwards such as Clayton Keller, Brendan Perlini, Christian Dvorak and Christian Fischer, but he acknowledged the group is not where it needs to be.

“We need better players,” he said. “We’re still a young group and we’re still growing and any team that has had success, they get significant internal or organic growth, and that’s kind of the main source, but you have to make key additions at key times and that’s why we weren’t going to force anything in season where it’s difficult managing the cap for a lot of teams.

“We need some impact players here and if you’re looking to get an impact player via trade, it’s a lot easier in the summer. The supply is higher just because there are 30 teams willing to move players as opposed to just the handful that are moving players now.”

Chayka said the Coyotes received calls on Hjalmarsson, who has another year left on his contract, and Raanta, who can become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

“The interest on our behalf to discuss them was limited,” he said. “I guess there’s always things that can pop up that blow you away. My role is always to listen on things but at the same time, there was never anything that I was contemplating because those two add significant value to our team, kind of independently, but mainly as they relate to our group and providing value to our young players. I really had no interest in moving them.”

Chayka doesn’t expect to do much with contracts during the season. He prefers to wait until after the season to open any discussions with Arizona’s free agents, a list that includes restricted free agents Max Domi, Laurent Dauphin and unrestricted free agents Kevin Connauton and Luke Schenn. However, Chayka expects talks to intensify with Raanta’s agent, Kevin Epp, on a new deal.

“The deadline has passed and some others things have cleared so it’s easier,” he said. “Our previous discussions were about Antti getting stabilized here, coming to a new team, a new system, had some injuries, so just allowing him to play the way he can and show what he can do. That was the main focus. Now that he has gone down that path, we’ll continue to have discussions.”

Chayka said is he also open to discussions with center Brad Richardson, who can become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

“There hasn’t been an urgency on either side to work on something until we get past the deadline and see where everything stands,” Chayka said. “We’ll have those discussions moving forward now and see if there’s something that makes sense for both sides. We respect Brad. We think that he’s a good veteran player that helps out our younger guys.”

With the passage of the trade deadline, the Coyotes made one paper transaction, assigning center Laurent Dauphin to Tucson to make him eligible for the AHL playoffs. Chayka does not expect to do so with any of the team’s other players.

A look at Coyotes second-year general manager John Chayka’s major trade deadline moves the past two seasons

Feb. 20, 2017: Traded defenseman Michael Stone to the Calgary Flames for a third-round draft pick in 2017 (traded to Edmonton for two more picks: Cameron Crotty and Michael Karow) and a conditional (now assured) fifth-round pick in 2018.

Feb. 26, 2017: Traded center Martin Hanzal and forward Ryan White to the Minnesota Wild for a first-round pick in 2017 (Pierre-Olivier Joseph), a second-round pick in 2018, a conditional 2019 fourth-round pick and minor leaguer Grayson Downing.

Feb. 21, 2018: Traded forward Tobias Rieder and goalie Scott Wedgewood to the Los Angeles Kings for goalie Darcy Kuemper.

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