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Arizona Coyotes’ GM Bill Armstrong analyzes 1st day of NHL free agency

Arizona Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong stands on the ice at Gila River Arena on Sept. 22, 2020. (Photo courtesy Arizona Coyotes)

Bill Armstrong’s first run through the NHL’s free agency window saw the Arizona Coyotes add some much-needed depth.

Armstrong discussed the team’s transactions during the opening day of free agency with members of the media on Friday night, focusing largely on the addition of forward John Hayden and right winger Tyler Pitlick.

The first-year GM believes that players like Hayden and Pitlick add character to a team like the Coyotes, which can go a long way when trying to sculpt a championship-contending club.

“We weren’t adding a $6 million player,” Armstrong said. “What we were doing was adding small pieces to the puzzle that the team needed to become a little bit more prickly. We added a few cactuses to the team today and I was happy with that.”

Armstrong warned that trying to go out and sign every free agent on the market is a losing strategy, as it can come back to bite a GM in the long-term.

“I think some teams that win on free agency day actually lose three years from now,” Armstrong said. “They spend a lot of money, get locked in, and the next thing you know they’ve got to sell the player off and give their first rounder away.”

“So, it’s sometimes you can get carried away and I think you have to make sure that you’re not chasing every free agent.”

Hayden scored three goals and added an assist in 43 games with the New Jersey Devils in 2019-20, while Pitlick scored eight goals and 12 assists with the Philadelphia Flyers last season.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s status

Armstrong also discussed the trade talks that the Coyotes had with other teams regarding captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

The first-year GM hinted to winnowing down the field for Ekman-Larsson’s services to two teams, but said the Coyotes will not move the 10th year defenseman during the offseason.

“I’m paid to move the club forward. I’m paid to look at every asset and get the club to move forward and become a better organization,” Armstrong said. “So, obviously when you’re painted into a corner and have two teams to choose from, you don’t have the best hand.

“You’re open to listening, but at the end of the day you always have to put the Arizona Coyotes forward and make sure that we make good decisions for the organization and it just didn’t happen, it wasn’t there.”

Ekman-Larsson scored nine goals with 21 assists in 66 games last season. He’s scored 125 goals in 723 career games with the Coyotes.

Looking forward

Armstrong said he’d like to add a few more pieces to the Coyotes’ roster before free agency wraps up, but that the impetus will be on adding complimentary pieces rather than major ones.

“There’s a few more pieces that I’d generally like to add. But you have to be smart about it,” he said. “You don’t want to be spending all of your money on the wrong things. It’s generally after you go into there with a plan you have to try to execute it. You can’t chase everything.”

“I don’t think it’s going to be a perfect day every time you go into free agency, but I think like you saw today, we’re a better team today because of the players that we added.”


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