My so-called vacation: How the Coyotes were remade in one month
As the 2018 NHL Draft approaches, only six players who logged at least 25 games in the 2016-17 season are on the Arizona Coyotes’ current roster. Think about that for a moment and you’ll understand why I am approaching the draft, free agency, and the supposed down time that follows with a sense of dread.
General manager John Chayka has remade this roster at blinding speed, with the latest move a trade of 2013 first-round pick Max Domi to the Montreal Canadiens for Alex Galchenyuk last week.
Logic says the cash-conscious Coyotes should be quiet on the NHL Draft floor on Friday in Dallas, but this franchise’s uncanny ability to grab summer headlines, Chayka’s always-in-motion reputation and the flurry of moves that came last summer offer more than a word of caution.
I drove to the NHL Draft last summer in Chicago with my family because my parents wanted to follow us and visit longtime friends in Springfield, Mo. We all brought our dogs. Anyone who has checked their dog in with an airline understands why flying wasn’t an option.
I won’t forget a single stop on that otherwise mind-numbing trek through west Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri and downstate Illinois because Coyotes news accompanied every stop and cell-phone dead-zone along the way.
Here is a recap of last summer’s Extreme Makeover: Coyotes Edition, in the form of a travel log.
June 12: Majority owner Andrew Barroway bought out the rest of the IceArizona ownership group, becoming the sole owner and removing all of the members of the group that helped keep the Coyotes in Arizona. As it turned out, this was the only major move the Coyotes made while I was still in Arizona.
June 16: As we pulled into Amarillo, Texas, for the night, the Coyotes acquired forward Nick Cousins and goalie Merrick Madsen from the Philadelphia Flyers for prospect Brendan Warren and a fifth-round draft pick in 2018. This trade was like an appetizer compared to what would follow. Also, two of the three elevators in the hotel were out of order. One broke down with my mother and two daughters in it, trapping them between floors for several anxious moments.
June 17: Just before arrived in Springfield, the Coyotes traded goalie Mike Smith to the Calgary Flames for the rights to unrestricted free-agent goalie Chad Johnson, defensive prospect Brandon Hickey and a conditional 2018 third-round pick which they will use this weekend. This was the first of several instances in which we had to pull over to the side of the road so my wife could take over the driving duties while I pulled out my laptop.
June 19: On our way from Springfield to St. Louis, we hit a cell-phone dead zone. In that 20-minute, incommunicado span, Coyotes captain Shane Doan had texted me to inform me that the team had told him they were cutting ties with him. I’ll never forgive the state of Missouri.
June 21: With my family now safe inside a rented flat in Chicago, the Vegas Golden Knights executed one of their rare gaffes when they claimed forward Teemu Pulkkinen in the NHL Expansion Draft. I reasoned that this only happened because I was in a comfortable and easy place to write a more meaningful story.
June 22: One day before the draft, and moments before I was scheduled to speak with him about that event, coach Dave Tippett parted ways with the organization, citing philosophical differences.
On eve of NHL Draft, Coyotes have no coach, no captain (yet), no president/CEO, no starting G, no No. 1 C (still), no prez of hockey ops.
— Craig Morgan (@craigsmorgan) June 23, 2017
June 23: In a flurry of trades that came just before the draft began, Chayka sent defenseman Connor Murphy and minor-league center Laurent Dauphin to Chicago for defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, and acquired New York Rangers center Derek Stepan and goalie Antti Raanta for defenseman Anthony DeAngelo and the No. 7 pick (center Lias Andersson) in the draft.
July 1: (Still in Chicago) The Coyotes parted ways with right wing Radim Vrbata, who wanted very badly to play one last season in Arizona and retire a Coyote, but also wanted a slight raise after leading the team in goals (20) and points (55). They also signed defenseman Adam Clendening.
July 11: We were in Denver, on the third-to-last stop of our summer vacation, when the Coyotes named Rick Tocchet their head coach.
My family went to a water park. I stayed behind to write.
July 12: (Still in Denver) The Coyotes named Steve Patterson as team president to replace Anthony LeBlanc.
July 14: On the day we arrived In Napa, Barroway held a press conference to address a variety of topics, including Doan, his buyout of the other owners, Tippett and Smith.
There were other moves, like the naming of assistant coaches John MacLean, Scott Allen, and the re-signing of forward Jordan Martinook, but the heavy lifting was over by the time we hit San Diego for one night before returning to Arizona.
In the span of one month — June 12-July 12, the Coyotes added a new ownership structure, a new president, a new coach, a new goalie, a new No. 1 center, a three-time Stanley Cup champion defenseman and a depth forward while saying goodbye to their previous ownership group, their longtime captain, their eight-year coach and their leading scorer.
It’s hard to imagine another summer with so much activity. Just in case, I’m flying to Dallas. What could possibly happen in two-and-a-half hours?