ARIZONA COYOTES

Coyotes make 1 trade but remain mostly quiet on deadline day

Feb 24, 2020, 5:07 PM | Updated: 5:31 pm
Cleveland Monsters left wing Markus Hannikainen (37) on the ice during the second period of the Ame...
Cleveland Monsters left wing Markus Hannikainen (37) on the ice during the second period of the American Hockey League game between the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Cleveland Monsters on December 13,2019, at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, OH. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Arizona Coyotes might win the honor of having made the biggest trade in the NHL this season. They just didn’t wait until the trade deadline to do it.

The Coyotes traded for former Hart Trophy Taylor Hall on Dec. 16, but on Monday only traded a conditional seventh-round draft pick for AHL forward Markus Hannikainen. The pickup adds depth to the Coyotes organization, acquiring a player who hasn’t played in the NHL this year but played parts of four seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets, getting in 91 games and scoring 15 points in the process.

Apart from that, general manager John Chayka expressed belief in the players the Coyotes already have after not making a splash trade on deadline day.

“I think it’s a tight group, I think it’s a good group,” Chayka said. “I think they believe in each other. Like I said, we made our moves earlier. We made them earlier with Taylor. And just felt strongly that this group can get the job done.”

As Chayka also pointed out, the team is expecting the imminent returns of both goaltender Darcy Kuemper and defenseman Jason Demers in the near future. Niklas Hjalmarsson, who missed much of the season, came back to the lineup last month. And Barrett Hayton, who was injured at the World Junior Championship, has rejoined the Coyotes for game action.

It also didn’t help that Arizona is low on cap space — meaning it would’ve had to move a contract to clear some room — and the acquisition cost for some traded players on Monday was high. For example, the Senators’ J.G. Pageau, whose career-high in goals before this season was 19, was traded to the Islanders for a first-round pick, a second-round pick and a conditional third-round pick.

“It’s just, the hurdle to actually act was higher this year,” Chayka said. “So in order to get better, we had to get some good players, and very few were available. Some stayed, some re-signed, those things. So the supply was pretty limited. We had some discussions, but nothing that made sense.”

Now, the attention turns back to the players currently on the Coyotes.

“The answer’s in the room for what we’re trying to do here,” head coach Rick Tocchet said. “And it is what it is. We’ve got a good group here. We stick to the plan, we can win some hockey games down the stretch.

One benefit to the Coyotes standing pat at the deadline is the continuity they get by not adding to or subtracting from the roster with only 17 games to go.

“I’ve seen a lot of different things,” Tocchet said. “I’ve seen teams make a bunch of moves and it doesn’t work out. I’ve seen teams make a move, and it does work out, and teams that stay pat. So we’re not in those phone calls, I’m sure it’s tough to move people. I don’t know. You show up, whoever’s on your team, you coach them. And we have a good group here and it’s our job to coach these guys.”

The Coyotes most recently are coming off a 7-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning and have won three of the last five games. They only have two games this week, both at home, offering an opportunity for practice and rest. Taking a longer look back, Arizona has previously been in first place in the division this season.

“I think we’ve shown we can play with anybody,” Chayka said. “When we play our best game, we can be right up there with anyone. But it’s about consistency, and some of that’s just — we make a big trade for Taylor Hall and some guys have to find their slotting and find that chemistry. I feel like that’s been a process, but we’re actually getting there now.”

ON THE MEND

Tocchet said Demers had “half of a practice” on Monday and was “getting close,” likely to play in the game against Buffalo on Saturday or shortly thereafter. Kuemper has had a good stretch of practices along with a conditioning game in Tucson, and it sounded as though the plan was to have him play Tuesday night against Florida, pending re-evaluation in the morning.

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