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Coyotes mostly quiet as trade deadline passes, but help is on the way

(Matt Layman/Arizona Sports)

The Arizona Coyotes didn’t fit neatly into the “buyer” or “seller” category on trade deadline day Monday, more-or-less standing pat as they sit within striking distance of a playoff spot.

Even though the Coyotes’ season has been plagued by an uncanny volume of injuries to key players, they’ve stayed afloat in what’s been a less-than-stellar crop of contenders in the Western Conference wild card race. The wide-open playoff battle has made way for Arizona to stay in the thick of things, but general manager John Chayka didn’t mortgage the future to get his team over the hump.

Instead, Chayka took waiver-eligible center Jordan Weal and flipped him to the Montreal Canadiens for Michael Chaput, who was already in the minors. It takes a center off of Arizona’s NHL roster just in the nick of time for Christian Dvorak to rejoin the team after his conditioning stint in Tucson.

“It was more of a minor move, just creates some flexibility for us, allows us to get a player in Tucson, help that group out,” Chayka said via “Obviosuly, with the injuries we’ve had up here, we’ve been stealing players from them. But it also gives us some depth at the NHL level in case we need it, as well.”

Dvorak, who has been injured all season, is the Coyotes’ trade deadline day addition, giving a boost to the center position with 20 games to go.

There were two things that the Coyotes were surely cognizant of going into deadline day: They have almost no pending unrestricted free agents going into in the offseason, and their injuries at key positions don’t help their chances at a deep playoff run (if they qualify for the postseason at all). With that in mind, it made little sense to be all-in for this season. Building for next year was the patient, prudent thing to do.

But it’s for those same reasons that it didn’t make sense to sell, either. The Coyotes have improved upon their 2017-18 season to take a step in the right direction this year. They also added a promising young forward in Nick Schmaltz and have had an elite penalty killing group. There’s reason for optimism going forward.

“Nothing came together that we felt was on-plan and for what we’re looking to do here, both short-term and long-term. I think it’s a vote of confidence for our group,” Chayka said. “I think it’s a group that you saw last night, this group plays hard for each other and has some special things going on. We were only going to add if we thought it was a significant upgrade.”

Defenseman Jason Demers and forward Michael Grabner could be the next ones in line after Dvorak to make their return, though a clear timeline for their return hasn’t been defined publicly. But in that sense, the Coyotes could have late-season additions with just what they have internally.

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