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Coyotes GM looks toward pressure moments as trade deadline passes

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

Still capable of fighting their way into one of four Western Division NHL playoff spots, the Arizona Coyotes stood pat as the 2021 trade deadline passed at noon Monday.

Arizona isn’t drowning in assets to use in trades. The team is down picks, including a 2021 first-rounder lost as a penalty for the Coyotes violating draft prospect testing protocols under the since-departed front office’s leadership.

But also, Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong has liked what he’s seen as Arizona has won seven of its last 12 games dating back to mid-March.

As of Monday morning, the Coyotes find themselves a point out of the fourth playoff spot but in a four-team competition with just more than three weeks of the regular season to play.

“Our group has really done a great job, especially over the last month fighting to get into a spot to earn the right to get into the playoffs,” Armstrong said Monday after the trade deadline passed. “I think they’ve earned my respect in the fact that we’re going to keep the group together to go forth.

“There’s no 100 percent that we’re gonna get in, but this group, I felt like they deserved that right to right to get in and stay together.”

Armstrong said that free agency will provide the franchise with better opportunities to add pieces without losing more assets and paying so steep of a price.

But before that, he believes keeping the 19-18-5 squad together can help him learn about the construction of his future teams.

Partially, it’s about seeing what players under the pressure to make a postseason push can do. It’s especially a tryout stage for youngsters.

At goalie, Adil Hill has strung together a competitive 10 starts in a row with Darcy Kuemper and Anti Raanta sidelined with injuries, while 25-year-old forward Michael Bunting has flashed in the past two weeks with six points, including a hat trick on April 5 against the Los Angeles Kings.

“Pressure is a great thing when you’re developing your team … Where when you’re under the pressure every night to get in and you get into the grind, you kind of get used to that,” Armstrong said. “It kind of forms a tougher, harder team.

“That pressure is what defines your group in the end. If we could let that pressure make us a lot better and achieve and get into the playoffs, I think it’d show our fans — it would say something about our core, too, our core of young players that are coming.”

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