Coyotes use cap space to acquire Hinostroza, Hossa contract via ‘Hawks
When the NHL’s free-agency period began on July 1, Coyotes general manager John Chayka identified a right-handed shot as something he would like to add to his forward group. He didn’t get it in free agency when Arizona signed wing Michael Grabner, but Chayka found that player in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday.
The Coyotes agreed to take on the final three years of forward Marian Hossa’s contract to acquire forward Vinnie Hinostroza, depth defenseman Jordan Oesterle and a 2019 third-round draft pick in exchange for center Marcus Kruger, forward prospects Jordan Maletta and MacKenzie Entwistle, minor-league defenseman Andrew Campbell, and Arizona’s 2019 fifth-round draft pick.
The Blackhawks have been looking to unload Hossa’s contract all summer to create cap space to help their accomplished core try to make another playoff run.
Hossa, who waived a no-move clause in order for the deal to be made, has three years left on a contract with a $5.275 million cap hit. He won’t play again due to a skin disorder that forced him to step away from the game after the 2016-17 season.
A league source said the Coyotes will place Hossa on long-term injured reserve when the season begins. Hossa’s contract only pays him $1 million in each of its final three years. Insurance would pick up 80 percent, and the Coyotes would cover $200,000 annually.
This isn’t the first time Chayka has used available cap space as an asset. He traded forward Joe Vitale plus the 20th and 53rd picks in the 2016 NHL Draft for the final year of Pavel Datsyuk’s contract ($7.5 million AAV) in order to add the No. 16 pick in the draft and select defenseman Jakob Chychrun.
Chayka traded a conditional third-round draft pick in 2017 and a conditional second-round pick in 2018 for the remaining three years of Dave Bolland’s contract so he could acquire forward Lawson Crouse.
“Cap space is a very valuable asset,” Chayka said. “Our ability to use it and leverage it has gotten us players. That was one element of it.”
This trade was not made to get to the salary cap floor. The Coyotes are already comfortably above that threshold. It was made to acquire an asset that the Blackhawks may not have parted with but for their desire to shed Hossa’s contract.
In Hinostroza, the Coyotes add a fast, 24-year-old right-handed wing who had 13 goals and 39 points in 99 games over the past two seasons with Chicago. He averaged 13:49 of ice time last season.
Citing the Vegas’ Golden Knights’ success with unheralded players like William Karlsson, Chayka said his staff felt Hinostroza was undervalued and has significant upside.
“I think he plays at a super high pace, one of the highest paces in the league,” Chayka said. “He’s skilled, he’s smart and he reads the play extremely well. He gets out in open ice and he makes a lot of things happen; he’s constantly on the puck, constantly pressuring the puck.
“With him and [Michael] Grabner and our current group of guys like [Brendan] Perlini and [Clayton] Keller, we think we’re one of the fastest winger groups in the league; not only fast but we’ve got a group that likes to have the puck.”
One of Hinostroza’s struggles has been the inability to successfully play under control, but he felt he made greater strides in another area last season.
“Where I made strides was the mental side of my game,” he said. “I was always worried if I made a mistake, what was going to happen. Last year, I kind of let go of all expectations. I knew I belonged in the league and I knew I could play my game and help the team win. No matter whether I made a mistake, I just kept my foot to the gas pedal and tried to played my own game.”
Hinostroza said he played on a team with Coyotes center Christian Dvorak when he was a kid, and he now works out regularly with Coyotes forward Christian Fischer, another Chicago-area native. The two grew up near each other and played youth baseball together.
“Very underrated player,” Fischer said via text message. “One of the few guys that I know that can play top speed and still make plays.”
Oesterle adds another left-handed defenseman to the mix for the Coyotes.
At first glance, he doesn’t seem to be a great fit in a lineup dominated by left-handed defensemen, but he is signed for just one more season at $650,000. He is not waiver exempt so the Coyotes would have to expose him to send him to Tucson of the American Hockey League.
The Coyotes are set with their top-six defenseman, but Chayka called Oesterle an efficient, puck-moving defenseman who could be a reliable option at the No. 7 defensive spot. He had five goals and 15 points in 55 games last season, averaging 20:31 of ice time.
Oesterle will have to compete with right-handers Robbie Russo, Ilya Lyubushkin, along with Trevor Murphy, Kyle Capobianco and Dakota Mermis.
“What we found is whenever injuries occurred we didn’t have the depth to sustain and keep that as the heartbeat of our team,” Chayka said of his defensemen. “This is just an opportunity where a guy came available, he’s playing 20 minutes a night, a lot of times in the top pairing with [Chicago’s Duncan] Keith. I don’t see him being paired with [Oliver] Ekman-Larsson, but at the same time, he’s a very effective player that can step in and play some meaningful minutes.”
Sending Kruger back to the Blackhawks where he won the Stanley Cup in 2013 and 2015 gives the Coyotes more spending flexibility, Chayka said. It also alleviates a logjam at the center position, allowing Brad Richardson to slide back into his fourth-line role.
With Derek Stepan, Alex Galchenyuk and Dvorak also on the roster, the Coyotes still need to figure out where Dylan Strome fits.
Maletta and Campbell didn’t figure into the Coyotes’ plans. Entwistle was the only prospect in the deal with significant upside. He had 13 goals and 38 points in 49 games for the OHL champion Hamilton Bulldogs, adding 10 goals and 17 points in 21 playoff games.