Arizona Coyotes 2019 summer preview: Attempting to build on progress
The offseason is really here.
With the conclusion of the Stanley Cup on Wednesday night and the Boston Bruins falling to the St. Louis Blues in seven games, NHL play is completely finished until the 2019-20 preseason.
That means it’s the time of year where we have the NHL Draft, free agency, trades and all-around roster-building.
Here are some of the details you should know about the Arizona Coyotes as GM John Chayka’s summer gets underway:
Coyotes’ unrestricted free-agents: Forwards Richard Panik, Mario Kempe, David Ullstrom; defenseman Dakota Mermis; goaltender Calvin Pickard
Don’t be surprised if Panik and Pickard don’t return, the former of whom was a healthy scratch several times in 2018-19 and the latter hardly played and was acquired to serve as goaltending depth due to injuries.
Coyotes’ restricted free agents: Forwards Nick Cousins*, Lawson Crouse, Josh Archibald*, Hudson Fasching*, Michael Bunting*; defenseman Dysin Mayo; goaltenders Hunter Miska, Adin Hill
Several names on this list were big parts of the Coyotes in 2018-19, particularly Cousins, Crouse and Archibald, who each played plenty of bottom-six minutes for Rick Tocchet. And of these 10 RFAs, seven of them played at least one game for the NHL club last season.
Contract space: 36/50
UFAs on the market
Coyotes fans may wish for the top free agent scorers, but the reality is that such players can cost a small fortune. A recent report from Darren Dreger indicated Matt Duchene is Arizona’s “primary focus,” but he’ll likely be a well-sought-after free agent and command a lot of money to boot. Dreger also said “it starts with Columbus,” referring to the team Duchene finished 2018-19 with and whether they’ll re-sign the 28-year-old center.
The New York Islanders had a few solid free agents, like Brock Nelson and Jordan Eberle, and while both of those players have re-signed, it’s players of that ilk that could be targets for Arizona: young, capable and relatively affordable. Another name to watch might be Gustav Nyquist, a 29-year-old who was “rented” by San Jose for their playoff run this year and once scored 28 goals in only 57 games back in 2013-14.
Of course, it remains to be seen whether teams retain these players’ services, where each of the many free agents will want to go, how much money the Coyotes intend to spend or how rumored ownership changes could affect their plans. It’s a bit of a guessing game at the moment, but you can expect Arizona to make goal-scoring its priority this summer.
RFAs on the market
Forwards Mitch Marner, Brayden Point, Mikko Rantanen, Patrik Laine and Sebastian Aho all belong within the discussion of some of the best forwards in hockey, but they also all happen to be restricted free agents this summer. So is this the year we see teams try to “offer sheet” other RFAs?
The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun explored that idea a couple of months ago and suggested — while quoting a current NHL GM to support the matter — that perhaps the “realistic offer sheet targets” are players like Maple Leafs forward Kasperi Kapanen, who would be less expensive than the aforementioned stars. LeBrun also singled out the Coyotes and Islanders on what he called a “not very long” list of clubs that fit the bill for a team likely to try to nab an RFA: close to playoff contention and having cap space to work with.
Kapanen and his teammate, Andreas Johnsson, are both RFAs this summer, both just finished their first full NHL season and both scored 20 goals in doing so. Johnsson, 24, is two years older than Kapanen but both are capable offensive players on a Maple Leafs team that has little cap room to work with.
LeBrun later reported that the Leafs and Coyotes had discussed Patrick Marleau, a trade for whom could be a means for Arizona to acquire one of the younger forwards. It’s not clear whether Toronto would have interest in doing that, and Marleau also has a no-move clause.
Still, keep in mind that offer sheets have been an extreme rarity in the NHL in recent years. Several of the players listed above are among the most important for the clubs they play on, so expect those teams to do everything within their power to keep them.
June 19: The NHL Awards in Las Vegas – Coyotes forward Oliver Ekman-Larsson is finalist for King Clancy Memorial Trophy
June 21-22: NHL Draft in Vancouver
June 24-28: Coyotes prospect development camp at Gila River Arena
July 1: Beginning of NHL free agency
The Coyotes own the 14th pick in this year’s draft, which will begin on June 21.
Per CapFriendly, Arizona owns eight picks in the seven rounds:
Round 1 – ARI
Round 2 – ARI
Round 3 – ARI, CHI
Round 4 – ARI
Round 5 – None
Round 6 – CBJ, PIT
Round 7 – ARI
Coyotes contract years in 2019-20: Forwards Alex Galchenyuk, Vinnie Hinostroza, Brad Richardson, Clayton Keller, Christian Fischer, Nick Merkley, Jens Looke, Giovanni Fiore, Lane Pederson, Michael Chaput; defensemen Kevin Connauton, Kyle Capobianco, Jordan Gross, Jalen Smereck; goaltenders Darcy Kuemper, Merrick Madsen
These are players who will be in the final year of their contract in 2019-20, often marking a important year for that player as their play determines what kind of payday they get the next offseason. Of these players, the UFAs are Galchenyuk, Richardson, Connauton, Kuemper and Chaput. The rest are RFAs.
Free agency information collected via CapFriendly.com