Is Coyotes forward Max Domi really on the trade block?
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Here’s what you need to know about those Max Domi rumors as the Feb. 26 NHL Trade Deadline approaches. Teams have inquired about him. Coyotes general manager John Chayka is willing to listen to those offers, just as he would on almost any other player, but there are no active discussions about trading the 22-year-old forward.
“Max is a good young player,” Chayka said. “We’re building our team around good young players.”
The Domi rumors had died down with both The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun and TSN’s Bob McKenzie reporting that the Coyotes were not actively shopping him after Chayka told Arizona Sports the same, but Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman wrote in his 31 Thoughts column on Tuesday that:
Max Domi scored his fourth of the year to open Arizona’s stunning 6–1 victory over Chicago on Monday night. It has been a hard year for the talented forward. The Coyotes are prepared to give him a fresh start, pending a fair offer. If it doesn’t come before the deadline, expect it at the draft.
During Saturday’s Headlines segment on Hockey Night in Canada on Feb. 10, Friedman added: “I don’t think it’s necessarily a trade where they’re looking to dump him or unload him or get rid of him. I just think they are looking around to maybe see if there is someone who feels a fresh start will help him.”
When asked about those reports on Friday, here’s what Domi said.
“I don’t know where anyone gets this information from, to be completely honest with you. For the most part, it’s all just rumors and that’s not up to me, it’s up to John and the management staff. I enjoy playing for the Coyotes, I love living here and hopefully I can stay for a long time.”
It bears repeating that the Coyotes are listening to offers for anyone other than defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson and forward Clayton Keller. The team is in the midst of a rebuild so if Chayka sees an opportunity to improve the team, he will take it. That said, the team is playing better in the new year — 7-5-5 in its past 17 games and 4-0-1 in its past five — so there is a growing sense that they should let it develop and see where things stand at the end of the season.
“I think if people are expecting us to be major players at the trade deadline they may be disappointed,” Chayka said.
Domi has had a down year. Through 58 games, he has four goals, 26 points and is shooting 3.6 percent.
It’s a far cry from his rookie season when he had 18 goals and 52 points. He had nine goals and 38 points last season in 59 games, but that season was cut short by a broken hand he suffered in a fight, and his points per game were nearly identical his rookie season.
“You can make all the excuses you want but the reality is I haven’t been getting enough and I’ve got to find a way to get through it,” said Domi, the Coyotes first-round pick in 2013 (No. 12).
Coach Rick Tocchet has had numerous conversations with Domi to walk him through that process.
“People who play long careers, they’re going to face adversity and we’ve talked a bunch about this,” Tocchet said. “It’s just going to make him stronger. As much as he’s struggled, he’s come with a smile on his face, ready to work.”
Domi said the talks with Tocchet, extra video sessions, extra practice work and attending to his off-ice habits have helped him stay focused, but he doesn’t feel the need to lean on anyone’s shoulder, even his dad, Tie Domi.
“It’s pretty black and white,” he said. “The more you try to think about it and point the finger and say ‘why me,’ that’s when you drive yourself insane. I think everyone goes through that but when you point the finger at yourself and say ‘these are the adjustments I have to make, and this is where I have to be a better player and a better teammate to help this team win’ is when you get through it.
“If our team was winning, I wouldn’t care that I was struggling, but if your team is struggling you think, ‘oh jeez, I’m a big reason why the team is struggling.’ The more you think that, the more it spirals out of control. Once you can turn that into positive motivation and embrace the whole struggle by getting extra reps in practice, watching extra video, eating good, getting your sleep, all of that helps you get through it.”
Because Domi has struggled, his value on the trade market is lower than it would have been a year ago. Chayka is not inclined to trade a devalued asset for less than he believes Domi is worth, especially when the Coyotes believe he can get back to his previous production levels, and he fits well with the culture Tocchet is trying to create.
There have been no discussions about a new contract for Domi, who will be a restricted free agent after the season. Domi’s bargaining power has certainly dropped this season, so those negotiations will bear watching if he is still with the team at the end of the season.
Domi said he does not feel the need for a fresh start. He feels comfortable in the Coyotes locker room, and with the new coaching staff.
“I love my teammates and being a part of this team,” he said. “I have lots of close friends in here.
“There are still 24 games left. I feel like my game is coming a little bit lately. There’s plenty of time to turn this around and get on a roll.”
If that roll comes with another team, Domi said he will accept it as part of the business, but he insisted it is not something he wants.
“John’s going to do what he thinks is best and that’s totally out of my control,” Domi said. “I have no say in what’s going to happen, but I don’t want to leave. I enjoy playing here. I haven’t had a great year so if it does happen, that’s on me.”
Oilers at Coyotes
When: 2 p.m., Saturday
Where: Gila River Arena, Glendale
TV: FOX Sports Arizona
Radio: 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station
Records: Oilers — 23-29-4. Coyotes — 16-32-10.
Injury report: Oilers — D Andrej Sekera (IR, face) is out indefinitely. F Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (ribs) is week-to-week. D Adam Larsson (personal) is day to day. Coyotes — None.
Oilers scouting report: The Oilers are on a season-long five-game losing streak. The Oilers have allowed five goals or more in three of their past five games. … F Connor McDavid has 13 points (eight goals, five assists) in his past eight games, 19 points (nine goals, 10 assists) in his past 13 games. … F Leon Draisaitl has 17 points (six goals, 11 assists) in his past 13 games.