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2019 NHL trade deadline preview: What do the Coyotes do?

Arizona Coyotes' Lawson Crouse (67) and goalie Darcy Kuemper (35) celebrate after the Coyotes defeated the Vancouver Canucks in overtime in an NHL hockey game Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019, in Vancouver, British Columbia. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)

With the NHL Trade Deadline coming up on Monday, the landscape of trades throughout the league will start to heat up.

But what do the Arizona Coyotes do? On the one hand, they’re just one point out of a playoff spot as of Friday, but they’ve been riddled with injuries and have several other teams to compete with in the Wild Card picture.

Healthy Coyotes unrestricted free agents: G Calvin Pickard; Fs Mario Kempe, Jordan Weal and Richard Panik

Players with full/modified no-trade or no-move clauses: Ds Alex Goligoski, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Jason Demers (injured); Fs Michael Grabner (injured) and Brad Richardson — according to CapFriendly

Contracts owned by Coyotes (limit: 50): 49

As the deadline approaches, 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station Coyotes radio host Luke Lapinski and reporter Matt Layman hypothesize where the Coyotes fit into the trade buzz:

Everybody wants to put teams into one of three categories: Buy, sell, or stand pat. What do the Coyotes do as they sit one point out of a playoff spot?

Luke Lapinski: I doubt they do much. If they did, the focus would clearly be on adding more offense, but there’s really no point in getting into a bidding war with the truly elite Cup contenders for a rental player right now. Especially because we’ve already seen in the past that it typically takes new guys a few weeks just to get acclimated to Rick Tocchet’s system. How much are you willing to give up for someone you might only have for six weeks anyway?

The other thing to consider is they’re basically right on the schedule they wanted to be on, in terms of how they’ve progressed since Tocchet took over.

They used the first half of last season to get used to his system, dramatically improved in the second half and then carried that over to this season. Guys are clearly comfortable with where they’re supposed to be on the ice now, and playing more on instinct rather than overthinking the game the way they were early on in 2017-18.

So yeah, it would be great to add more offense. And there’s something to be said for showing the players in the room you believe in what they’re doing enough to make a move. Maybe they’ll go after an under-the-radar piece or two that specifically fits what they’re trying to do. But what they have going on right now despite all the injuries defies stats anyway, so they might just not want to mess with the chemistry either. I wouldn’t expect anything major.

Matt Layman: I agree. I wouldn’t expect them to add a big piece to make a playoff push. A lot of people thought before the season that the Coyotes could be a playoff team this year, and then everyone got hurt, and they’re still in the playoff picture. So, in that sense, they’ve probably overachieved a little bit.

With that in mind, just stand pat. Go into the offseason, evaluate what you have and build for next season, when your odds of making a serious run to and through the playoffs are better than they are right now. Any playoff odds this year is like playing with house money.

If the Coyotes did make some sort of trade, what might they do? What makes sense?

ML: Probably adding to their forward group with someone who is under contract for at least through next year. Once Jason Demers is healthy again, they’ll have eight solid players on their blue line, and next year you hope Kyle Capobianco bounces back and becomes that depth player you need there. So, on defense, I wouldn’t think an addition is in the works.

The Coyotes could always use more offense, but a rental wouldn’t be the place to look for that, for a couple reasons: the Coyotes would probably have to give up a lot to outbid Stanley Cup contenders looking for forward help, and it may not make sense for Arizona to put its eggs in the 2019 basket unless it truly thinks it has a serious shot at a deep playoff run (I’ll let you, the reader, decide that one for yourself).

Here is what general manager John Chayka said Thursday on Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station:

“I think if you’re looking for an addition or even internally, it’s certainly just, we’ve got to score some more goals,” he said. “We need to either separate ourselves and extend a lead or be able to come back from some games when teams score on us early. That’s been a theme all year. Some of that’s injury-wise, some of that’s I think an area where I think we can improve on.

“It’s tough to say right now. I think there’s some bigger names out there in the rental market. I’m not really in the rental market. That’s not something that I’m actively looking to do. But there’s some bigger names, I think that’s kind of caused things to be a little bit stagnant.”

LL: They’re pretty set on defense, both for right now and long term when everyone gets healthy. And there’s no point in overpaying for a goaltender at the deadline because a) there aren’t a lot available, b) it would only be a temporary solution because Antti Raanta’s back next season and – most importantly – c) Darcy Kuemper has been outstanding anyway. He’s their guy.

That just leaves forward. And while I don’t think the Coyotes would mind adding someone for the right price, I don’t get the feeling there’s a huge sense of urgency to do it. I agree rentals don’t make a lot of sense unless the cost is minimal, but finding a decent young scorer with term (Jonathan Huberdeau’s name has been floated out there) would make sense. Thing is, those guys are typically available in the summer, not in the seconds leading up to the trade deadline. So the biggest additions might simply be getting pieces like Jason Demers, Christian Dvorak and Michael Grabner back from injury.

What is the over-under on the number of trades the Coyotes make with the Blackhawks before the end of the 2019 NHL Draft?

ML: There definitely has been a lot of deals made with Chicago, hasn’t there?

I wouldn’t think that’s going to be the case in the next few days, though, since both the Blackhawks and the Coyotes are fighting for that last Wild Card spot. But historically, we know that last year, Chayka made some deadline deals that involved AHL players like Tyler Gaudet and Trevor Murphy. He waited until the offseason to get Alex Galchenyuk, and maybe that’s a similar approach Arizona takes this year. They’re probably not in the rental market, so if they add an NHL guy it would likely be someone that can help the team not just this season but down the road.

LL: Yeah, don’t expect many deals between Arizona and Chicago this time around. Normally, this is when they’d pass Laurent Dauphin back and forth like seven times, but he’s in Nashville’s system now so there goes that idea. And like Matt said, the Coyotes and Hawks are directly competing with each other for the last playoff spots in the West, so anything would probably just involve minor leaguers.

When we get to the summer though, that pipeline opens again.

Where do the Coyotes’ Pacific Division rivals fit into all of this? Are there any teams that are on the extreme ends of the buyer/seller spectrum?

LL:  San Jose and Calgary are clearly all-in to win right now. The Sharks already made their big moves in the offseason and they don’t have a lot of cap space left to work with. But they’re on the short list of teams I think can win it all in June, so I’m sure they’ll find a way to make something happen. Even if it’s not a blockbuster.

I personally don’t think the Flames are quite as good as the Sharks, but they’re not far off. And they’ve been linked to a couple of the biggest rentals available, so this could get interesting. Other than those two, the Golden Knights are still in the mix, but they look like they’re a tier below those top two and they’re still building a farm system from scratch so they might not want to get too crazy. Then again it’s Vegas, so they might just scream “Vegas!” and deal everything for Artemi Panarin.

The Canucks are in a similar spot as the Coyotes, in that they’re a young team soaking up the experience of being in a playoff race right now, while still looking more big picture. The Ducks are hanging around, despite a complete meltdown in the middle of the season. But they have some valuable assets to deal if they decide to wave the white flag. Same with the Kings. The Oilers should be trying to trade away everyone that isn’t named Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl to fix their cap situation, but they still seem to think they’re going to win the Stanley Cup from seventh place.

ML: Yeah, to me if I had to pick which team is most likely to do something drastic — whether that’s buy a big piece or sell everything — I’d go with Edmonton selling. They had a change at both coach and GM and have already made a couple moves, including sending Cam Talbot to Philadelphia.

As Luke said, San Jose doesn’t have a lot of cap room and neither does Calgary.

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