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‘Yotes Notes: Dineen making up for lost time, Chayka talks free agency

Arizona Coyotes general manager John Chayka is interviewed by The Doug and Wolf Show on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station on Feb. 12, 2018. (Matt Layman/Arizona Sports)

GLENDALE, Ariz. – A torn MCL limited defenseman Cam Dineen to 29 games in the 2016-17 season. There were pros and cons that followed.

“He missed a year,” Coyotes defenseman prospect coach Alex Henry said. “It’s a year of being on the ice, a year of experience. Physically, I think Cam is gifted and he’s a good skater, he’s a smart player. You don’t lose those things, but just the experience of plays on the ice and that transition game at a better pace, he missed that.”

On the flip side, Dineen added some attributes he thinks will help him as he tries to make up for lost time.

“I got to spend a lot of time in the weight room rehabbing my knee and working on upper body strength,” said Dineen after Day 2 of the Coyotes prospect development camp at Gila River Arena on Tuesday. “Once I was able to work on lower body strength, I was doing that every day, too. I actually put on some muscle and that helped me going into this year.“

Dineen, the Coyotes’ third-round pick (No. 69) in 2016, began last season with North Bay in the Ontario Hockey League where he had 11 goals and 36 points in 39 games. He was traded to Sarnia where he had nine goals and 28 points in 26 games.

Henry said practicing and playing with a better team – Sarnia had the second-most points in the OHL — helped Dineen’s development.

“In North Bay, I was asked to drive offense so being in that role was special but going to Sarnia, we had a lot of offensive talent so it was more realistic game for me,” Dineen said. “They just wanted me to move the puck up to the forwards, join the rush and play the power play.”

Dineen, 20, got a taste of pro hockey by spending the final month of the season practicing with the Tucson Roadrunners in the American Hockey League after his OHL season ended in the second round of the playoffs. Roadrunners general manager Steve Sullivan said that is where Dineen will begin next season as he learns the pro game.

“It will take a little while to acclimate to the pro game, but he’s a guy that once he gets his feet wet, he’s got the mind to make that jump,” Henry said.

FORMER COYOTES HIT FREE AGENCY

The Coyotes traded a pair of young forwards last season that were once considered building blocks of their future. The teams that acquired them decided this week that neither of them would be a part of their future.

The Chicago Blackhawks opted not to tender a qualifying offer to restricted free agent Anthony Duclair and the Los Angeles Kings opted not to qualify Tobias Rieder. Arizona sent Rieder and goaltender Scott Wedgewood to the Kings for backup goaltender Darcy Kuemper in February. They traded Duclair to the Blackhawks for forward Richard Panik and center Laurent Dauphin in January.

FREE-AGENT NEEDS

Chayka was asked Monday what positions the Coyotes would target in free agency, which begins July 1.

“We feel like we can add to our wingers,” he said. “Free agency is one way to add some wingers who we think highly of and can add a lot to our group. We’re continuing to build here, so if there’s a player out there and ownership is on board, we’ll take that step.”

Chayka also acknowledged the need to add defensive depth behind the top five defensemen who are signed: Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Alex Goligoski, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Jason Demers and Jakob Chychrun.

“We made a trade [Sunday] night for [Robbie] Russo. He’s a guy our scouts have a lot of passion for and think highly of. He’s also a right-shot, mobile puck mover that we think has some upside to him,” Chayka said. “We’re going to make a couple more moves in that regard, but I’d say our core five is really strong.”

LOOSE PUCKS

— The Coyotes signed undrafted forward Brayden Burke of the Moose Jaw Warriors (Western Hockey League) to an entry-level contract in March and he is participating in development camp. Burke is expected to play for Tucson this season, where he finished up the 2017-18 season. Burke, 21, had 31 goals and 113 points in 61 games last season for Moose Jaw.

“I was disappointed not to be drafted but I put in the work in the summer and had one of the best years I’ve had in a long time,” Burke said. “I got better in a bunch of facets of my game and teams started noticing that.”

— Dawn Braid is no longer the full-time skating coach for the Coyotes, who hired her last season, making her what was believed to be the first full-time female coach in the NHL. Chayka said Braid will continue to work with the Coyotes “on a project basis,” but the decision to limit hours was an arrangement that “works better for both sides.” Braid is contracted to work with other NHL teams and also conducts private lessons.


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