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Arizona Coyotes land in middle of the pack in ESPN future power rankings
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Arizona Coyotes land in middle of the pack in ESPN future power rankings

It was not long ago the Phoenix Coyotes appeared to be a team on the rise.

However, things have changed — including the franchise’s name — and as they get set to drop the puck on the 2014-15 campaign, there is a sense that while the team may not be too bad, it’s not likely to be too good, either.

As it turns out, that may be just about right for the team not only this year, but in the future as well. Over at ESPN.com, a panel of hockey folks put out the NHL Future Power Rankings. The Insider piece rates teams on four categories, including roster, prospects, cap/contracts and owner/gm/coach. The categories are weighted, with roster making up 35 percent of the total and prospects 25 percent, with the other two each at 20 percent.

Arizona landed at No. 17, with the team’s best category being its contracts.

One of the benefits of being a budget team is that you have all kinds of flexibility moving forward. The Coyotes were strong in the cap/contracts category, and have only about $13 million in payroll committed to the 2017-18 season.

The Mike Smith contract won’t age well, but the $5.5 million cap hit for Oliver Ekman-Larsson is outstanding. He is signed through 2018-19 in one of GM Don Maloney’s finest moves.

With an average age of 27.5 years, the Coyotes’ roster is not one of the youngest in the league. However, like Ekman-Larsson, some of its brightest stars are of the emerging variety, which generally means their salaries are not too exorbitant quite yet.

Of course, the challenge is being able to build on what they have, which is something the franchise was unable to do following its run to the Western Conference Final in 2012.