How the Arizona Coyotes stack up with NHL free agency looming large
It’s been an important offseason for the Arizona Coyotes and general manager Bill Armstrong, and his staff faces another busy week after closing the book on the 2022 NHL Entry Draft.
Armstrong and the Coyotes were amongst the busiest teams at the draft in Montreal, having 10 total selections, including three in the first round.
Arizona opted to try to solidify the center-ice position for years to come, drafting centers Logan Cooley and Conor Geekie No. 3 and No. 11 overall, respectively.
With the Coyotes turning the page on what could be a pivotal draft for the franchise, they shift their attention to free agency.
NHL free agency starts at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, when players on expiring deals can officially begin negotiations with other teams.
The Coyotes enter this free agency period with a whole lot of cash to spend should they see the need, having upwards of $29 million in cap space, per CapFriendly.
Only the Anaheim Ducks ($39 million), Buffalo Sabres ($34 million) and the Detroit Red Wings ($31 million) enter free agency with more cap space than the Coyotes.
This free agent pool is relatively deep, especially at the unrestricted level. Big names like Johnny Gaudreau, Claude Giroux, Evgeni Malkin, Nazem Kadri and Darcy Kuemper will hit the open market on Wednesday.
There’s also a handful of young up-and-coming stars on expiring restricted deals that the Coyotes could make an offer sheet for.
The Coyotes will have to reach new deals with their own restricted free agent forwards Lawson Crouse, Christian Fischer and Barrett Hayton.
All three of which should be a priority for the Coyotes, but they could receive some calls about trading their rights.
The Coyotes have to make their qualifying offers to their restricted free agents by Monday at 2 p.m. and restricted free agents can be contacted for offer sheets starting Tuesday.
Veteran forward Phil Kessel is set to be a free agent on Wednesday and his time in Arizona has likely come to an end.
At 34, Kessel could be looking for another run at the Stanley Cup. However, if the Coyotes can bring the winger back on a team-friendly deal, he could be a vital veteran presence to have in the Valley.
There’s no doubt the Coyotes can be major players in NHL free agency.
The question then becomes does Arizona feel like spending this offseason? Or would Armstrong and co. rather continue to stockpile assets and cap space for years going forward?
This week will be a great indication.