Arizona Coyotes at the trade deadline: Will a move be made?
The NHL trade deadline is on Monday at 1 p.m. MST. On Saturday, less than 48 hours before that deadline, the Coyotes have a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, who snapped an 11-game win streak on Thursday.
Perhaps Saturday will serve as a contrast between where the Coyotes are and where they want to be.
After losing 1-0 on the road to the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night, Arizona is in third place in the Western Conference Wild Card standings, out of a playoff spot. For a team that spent time in first place in its division for a portion of this season, the Coyotes missing the playoffs would be shocking.
Arizona hasn’t made the playoffs since 2011-12, when the leading scorer was Ray Whitney, the captain was Shane Doan and Radim Vrbata led the team in goals. Now, after acquiring Taylor Hall and Phil Kessel, spending time in first place and coming so close to a playoff berth last year, the Coyotes need to find a way into the postseason.
So what’s to be done? Here’s a look at a few elements of Arizona’s situation approaching the trade deadline:
Despite the downward trajectory of the team at time of this writing (Arizona is 5-10-4 in its last 19 games entering the weekend), the Coyotes are close enough to a playoff spot that it probably doesn’t make a world of sense to blow things up. Keep in mind, the Coyotes won 9 of 12 earlier this season and have had two different four-game winning streaks this year. If they got hot again, they could be sitting pretty, suddenly.
There’s also the question of who you would trade that would get you a return significant enough to make it worth doing. And most of the Coyotes’ best players have contracts that extend beyond this season.
The Coyotes wouldn’t seem to be buyers in any significant way. They’ve already gone out and acquired Kessel and Hall, and they have the second-highest cap hit in the NHL, per CapFriendly. There isn’t really any room left in the cap to navigate a significant acquisition unless they traded someone with a big cap hit, and that seems unlikely.
That said, they could free up cap space by moving a contract like that of Michael Grabner ($3.35 million AAV), who hasn’t played much lately, or a bottom-six forward on an expiring contract. With that cap space, Arizona could acquire help on defense or perhaps a middle-six forward.
WHAT ABOUT HALL?
Hall’s name has come up in national trade speculation, and the Coyotes losing more games has only aided that narrative. In a vacuum, Hall is on a team that’s trending downward and is on an expiring contract. But the urgency to get back to the playoffs and the Coyotes’ proximity to a playoff spot would both seem like reasons for Hall remaining in Arizona to supersede the return of trading him.
In other words: Would draft picks and prospects really make up for the message that would be sent to both the locker room and fans if the Coyotes traded a former MVP while trying to secure a much-needed playoff berth?
Furthermore, general manager John Chayka joined Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station last week and said this, in part, about re-signing Hall:
“We think we’re as well-positioned as anyone in the league to make a pitch for a star player in a beautiful city and be able to get him,” Chayka said. “And the opportunity to sell him beforehand we think is a very valuable opportunity for us. And we’ll pursue it as hard as we can. Ultimately, I don’t know exactly what the odds are, I know he’s enjoying his time here. It’s been a good fit. He’s playing on a great line and enjoying living in our city. So we feel really confident in our ability.”
That doesn’t sound like someone motivated to move Hall at the deadline, although the Coyotes have gone 2-3 in five games since Chayka said that.