The Arizona Coyotes were one of the darlings of the 2015-16 NHL season but have only won seven games in 2016, quickly falling out of the playoff race in the Pacific Division.
With the trade deadline quickly approaching on Feb. 29, the Coyotes are at a crossroads despite being only five points out of the final wild card spot. With their recent struggles in mind, ESPN.com has the Coyotes listed as a moderate seller in their trade deadline preview.
The over-achieving Coyotes have finally started to hit a wall, winning just two of their past 10 games. The slip was bound to happen as the club ranks 28th in Corsi for percentage, and has a negative goal differential. The recent slide should convince management to sell their upcoming free agents and think purely about the future.
For potential acquisitions, ESPN.com said Arizona might target a disappointing draft pick or a recent first-round pick from a team ready to win now.
Brayden Schenn, F, Philadelphia Flyers: While he has yielded disappointing results in light of his fifth overall draft status, Schenn can fill a second-line center role the Coyotes, and is just 24 years old. The Flyers, who are also rebuilding, will not be giving him away for nothing, but they will not be paying him top dollar as an RFA either.
Daniel Sprong, F, Pittsburgh Penguins: The Penguins are heating up behind a blazing-hot Sidney Crosby, and likely believe they have a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup. Their first-round pick from last year, Sprong made the team out of camp, but struggled to adapt to the highest level. He has great hands and could be the type of player the Pens send in exchange for a quality rental.
As for who could be on the way out, Arizona has to worry about a future unrestricted free agent and look at their young depth at center.
Mikkel Boedker, F: While he is not a complete player, Boedker is a strong power-play scorer with good hands and the ability to beat goalies with his shot. This season, 20 of his 35 points have come on the power play, which should be attractive to any contender. He is a free agent after this season.
Martin Hanzal, F: One of the most under-appreciated players in the NHL, the 6-foot-6 center has scored 24 points in 39 games this season, to go along with a plus-1.2 percent relative Corsi during the past three seasons. At 28 and with a cap hit of $3.1 million, Hanzal could serve as a depth center for contenders, and with young centers coming through the ranks, it may be best for the Coyotes to trade him now.
ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun had his own Pacific Division trade deadline preview and also mentioned Boedker possibly being on his way out.
The playoffs are becoming less and less of a reality for a rebuilding Coyotes team that has lost five straight games and nine of their past 11 games. Pending unrestricted free-agent blueliner Nicklas Grossmann could be moved given the numbers on defense the Coyotes currently have. The big pressure point, however, remains the future of pending UFA winger Mikkel Boedker. There have been contract talks but the clock is ticking. He’s only 26 years old and if he goes on the trade block, he dwarfs any other rental forward on the market in terms of talent. But the Coyotes no doubt will continue until the 11th hour to try to sign him.
The choices for GM Don Maloney will be as difficult as ever. Boedker and Hanzal are both having some of their best seasons to date, but the future is very bright and Maloney could make it even brighter by moving the long-time veterans of the team.