ESPN gives Coyotes A+ grade during critical offseason for the franchise

Aug 9, 2021, 10:47 AM | Updated: 2:00 pm

The Arizona Coyotes received an A+ from ESPN in its offseason grades for all 32 NHL teams.

General manager Bill Armstrong was brought aboard in 2020 from the St. Louis Blues and is known as a draft expert who was a contributor to the Blues’ Stanley Cup run.

He has made a plethora of moves early in his tenure with the Coyotes that caught the eyes of Greg Wyshynski, senior NHL writer at ESPN.

Now this is how you tank, GM Bill Armstrong was hired in 2020 thanks in part to his prowess as a draft guru in St. Louis. But when he arrived in Arizona, he found a roster that was nudging the cap ceiling as well as an empty cupboard of draft picks — including ones the NHL took away thanks to the previous regime’s draft combine rule violations.

The Coyotes accrued draft capital that included the No. 9 overall pick in the 2021 draft, but shipped away some of the franchise’s most important players along the way.

Goalie Darcy Kuemper, defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson and right wing Conor Garland were all names the Coyotes traded off in hopes of building a contender down the road.

Armstrong managed to move Ekman-Larsson and his onerous contract (although it did cost promising Conor Garland), trade Kuemper for a solid prospect in (Conor) Timmins and a first-rounder, and build a treasure trove of picks that includes five in next year’s second round.

The Coyotes still have more than $8 million in cap space and only seven players under contract for the 2022-23 season.

Wyshynski mentions that the Coyotes may not be done yet and look to trade veteran right wing Phil Kessel and center Christian Dvorak.

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