Coyotes mailbag: Strome call-up, Raanta coming back, Kuemper’s role
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The NHL Trade Deadline has passed but Coyotes fans still have plenty of questions. I’ll answer some of those as best as I can in today’s mailbag. My apologies if I did not get to them all. I’ll try to do these more frequently.
From (Twitter handle) @tripower66: Do you think Dylan Strome will be a last- month call-up? Seems to me it would be a building block for him towards next year?
I asked Tucson Roadrunners general manager Steve Sullivan about this and he said he would just be guessing at this point. All options are still on the table. I’m sure the Coyotes are weighing the benefits of giving Strome more NHL games with a desire not to disrupt the Roadrunners’ successful season. It is important to the organization that Tucson builds a culture of winning. The Roadrunners were in first place in the Pacific Division heading into Wednesday’s game. They have the second-best winning percentage in the Western Conference. The Coyotes want to see them keep rolling.
From @CallumKemlo: After bringing in Kevin Ekman-Larsson, what are the chances both he and OEL are resigned?
It depends on Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s desire to sign an extension this summer when he is eligible. The continued uncertainty around the team will play a role, but Oliver has consistently told me he likes his life here and I believe that. I think he has adapted much better to what Rick Tocchet is seeking from him and I think Tocchet has learned how to relate better to Oliver (a process Tocchet admitted at the start of the season would take time with all of his players). As for Kevin Ekman-Larsson, his presence helped Oliver through the loss of his mother, a loss that absolutely was still impacting him at the start of this season. That said, the Coyotes view KEL as a mobile, puck-moving defenseman — a difficult commodity to find at the AHL level. He has some value in Tucson.
From @gfallar: What do you figure is the possibility of losing goalie Antti Raanta to perhaps a closer-to-a-Cup team and, if that happens, you think Kuemper has starting goalie chops?
I think all sides are interested in Raanta signing a new deal in Arizona. The reality of the goalie market is that there are not a lot of No. 1 options, and most teams have those spots locked down. The Coyotes gave Raanta his first shot at being a No. 1 and I genuinely think he likes it here. The only hang-up, in my opinion, might be the terms he is seeking on a new deal.
Direct message from a fan who wished to remain anonymous: Do you think the signing of Darcy Kuemper got in Antti Raanta’s head and do you think it affects Raanta’s future?
I don’t think the two are related at all. Kuemper signed a two-year extension at an average annual value of $1.85 million. That is a backup goalie’s deal and I don’t think the quick extension he signed after the trade rattled Raanta at all. He saw it for what it was. If Raanta were to sign with another team in the offseason (I don’t think he will), I think the Coyotes would still be in the market for a No. 1 goalie. At this point, I don’t think they view Kuemper as a No. 1.
From @B_Murdock1320: After signing Raanta, what is their next major focus this offseason?
Signing Oliver Ekman-Larsson to a contract extension is without question the top priority aside from Raanta, but I also think they’ll look to sign defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson to an extension. Aside from that, improving their forward group through trades will be a major emphasis at the NHL Draft in Dallas.
From @Zach_Elg: Do you think GM John Chayka has his eyes set on a specific player or players for the offseason?
I’m sure he does but he has not shared that information with me. If you look at the roster, assuming Raanta and Ekman-Larsson sign new deals, the blue line and goalie positions are largely set. That would leave the forward group as the main area to address.
From @mattygio77: Since Dylan Strome doesn’t really fit into Tocchet’s system, is it worth trading him for someone who does?
I think it’s a big assumption to say Strome does not fit in Tocchet’s system. We would need to see evidence of that over an extended period of time. Tucson is employing the same style of play as the Coyotes and Strome is thriving down there. The issue for Strome is being able to play and think at NHL speed. He may get that chance later this season. He may get that chance in 2018 training camp. If Chayka sees an opportunity to improve the team, Strome could be a piece of a trade, but I do wonder about his trade value at this point. His development story has been well publicized.
From @CoyotesAvs12: Who among the young players previously thought to be among the core is most expendable?
I’m guessing you are talking about Max Domi. Chayka has consistently maintained that he will not undersell assets and Domi’s value has certainly declined this season because of his goal-scoring struggles (five goals, two of them empty-netters). There would be more teams in the mix for a possible summer deal so that would improve the market, but Domi’s value won’t appreciate considerably unless he turns this around over the final 20 games of this season. Max played well his first two seasons in the NHL (the second cut short by his hand injury). Is this season an anomaly? Maybe the Coyotes will wait to find out if he can regain his form next season, maybe a good opportunity will arise to move him this offseason. Either way, he’s a restricted free agent so contract talks should be interesting coming off this disappointing season.
From @AZHockeyNut: How about an update on last year’s draft class/top prospects in our system?
I’ll take an in-depth look at this topic later in the season.
From @AZHockeyNut: Cap range next year compared to this year for the team? Meaning, can they spend more or less or same? Chayka talked about getting “impact players.” Those tend to cost cap space.
The budget for next season won’t be set until after the season, but Chayka did say after the trade deadline that he has “maximum flexibility.” Again, I think the team’s major moves will be made through trades, not free agency. Per capfriendly.com, the Coyotes have a cap hit of $45.416 million next season with 16 players under contract. That does not account for re-signing Raanta and perhaps Brad Richardson and Domi.
From @gregdunaway: Name the top three free agent targets this summer. Identify the causes of regression for most of our offensive weapons. Predict what the top two lines might look like next October.
Nice try, Greg. Did you want another wine pairing, too?
From @jnamio: What do you think will happen with Luke Schenn? Will he be benched forever? Will he be re-signed? Do I need a new jersey?
Schenn has some value as a depth defenseman but if the Coyotes keep their top five intact (OEL, Hjalmarsson, Alex Goligoski, Jason Demers, Jakob Chychrun) then there may not be room for Schenn. If the Coyotes decide to re-sign unrestricted free agent Kevin Connauton this offseason, I doubt Schenn would be back. If Connauton signs elsewhere, there may be a chance to bring back Schenn. The Coyotes management and coaching staffs will sit down after the season to identify their needs. As for the jersey, what’s wrong with a retro look?
From @tbog23: What do you think the team’s biggest offseason needs are and how aggressive do you see them in free agency to push for a playoff spot in 2018-19?
As I wrote above, if the main pieces of the defense and the goaltending remain intact, the major thrust has to be to improve the center position and find more scoring on the wing. I think trades will be a greater factor in finding those solutions than free agency.
From @BuyYourHomeNow: Who do you see from Tucson being an NHL regular next season?
Dylan Strome, Nick Merkley, Laurent Dauphin, Lawson Crouse and Kyle Capobianco will all have a chance in training camp. Whether they grab a spot will depend on which roster spots are available and their performance. I wouldn’t call anyone a lock or even a good bet to make the team out of Tucson next season.
From @ChillyMostFresh: What do the players mean by “simplifying the game?” What were they doing to make it more complex?
— Chipping the puck out of the defensive zone when there is effective pressure rather than trying a risky or home run pass that could result in a turnover and a scoring chance.
— Getting pucks deep in the offensive zone and getting in on the forecheck rather than risk turning it over high in the zone and creating odd-man rushes the other way.
— Smart puck management and defensive positioning through the neutral zone where offensive flow is created.
— Getting pucks on net instead of too much passing.
Many of these are hockey clichés, but they are based in logic (although creativity and risk-taking has to play a role in the proper situations).
From @Michael18285958: Will the Coyotes pursue Erik Karlsson? If so, would they pay him and OEL both?
I think the Coyotes did their diligence on Karlsson but I do not expect him to end up here.
From @SICHLMontreal: Curious about the AHL deadline trade, purely for the Roadrunners playoff run or does a Trevor Murphy have a shot?
I think the deadline moves were made largely for Tucson’s playoff run but they really like Murphy’s mobility and puck-moving abilities.
From @tteefey: Any word on a [Shane] Doan ceremony? Will we see the throwback jerseys again?
I wouldn’t expect a Doan ceremony before next season at the earliest. No team could wear their third jerseys or throwbacks this season because Adidas could not produce them. They will return next season and the Coyotes plan to wear their Kachina jerseys.
From @AZviaNJviaNY: Any news on the Coyotes plan/hopes of signing Brandon Hickey, the Boston University defenseman who was acquired in the Mike Smith trade?
The Coyotes like both players so an effort will be made to sign them. It takes two signs to tango.
From @CoyotesTruther: I respect [owner Andrew] Barroway and [team president and CEO Steve] Patterson for keeping arena discussion out of the media. When does ownership need to resolve the issue before relocation is inevitable? Will Barroway be adding a new investor?
The first question depends on the will of commissioner Gary Bettman and the NHL Board of Governors. Bettman has clearly made every effort to keep the team in Arizona and that remains his focus. I think as long as he sees a potential path forward toward an arena solution, that will remain his focus. Barroway said previously that he is open to adding investors. There is nothing concrete to report on that front but I’m sure it remains an option.
Wild at Coyotes
When: 7 p.m., Thursday
Where: Gila River Arena, Glendale
TV: FOX Sports Arizona
Radio: ESPN 620 AM
Records: Wild — 36-20-7. Coyotes — 18-34-10.
Season series: Coyotes lead 1-0
Goalies: Wild — Alex Stalock (projected). Coyotes — Antti Raanta.
Injury report: Wild — None. Coyotes — None.
Wild scouting report: Minnesota has won five straight games and is 8-1-2 in its past 11, pushing the Wild into third place in the Central Division, four points behind Winnipeg for second. … Eric Staal is having a renaissance year with 33 goals (tied for fourth in the NHL) and 64 points in 63 games. His line (Jason Zucker, Mikael Granlund) has 26 points in the past three games. … The Wild’s road penalty killing percentage (75.6) ranks 26th in the league. … Arizona rallied from a 3-0 deficit to defeat the Wild, 4-3, in St. Paul on Feb. 8 on Clayton Keller’s goal at 3:55 of overtime.
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