All told, the Arizona Coyotes traded away five players and two draft picks around the NHL’s Monday trade deadline.
In return, the Desert Dogs added five players and three future draft picks.
The moves led the team’s roster to look markedly different than it did just a few days ago, as veterans Keith Yandle and Chris Summers, Antoine Vermette and Zbynek Michalek all went to new homes. The team also traded goalie prospect Mark Louis.
But when your team is near the bottom of the NHL standings with a 20-36-7 record and 47 points, well, things have to change.
“These were moves that needed to be made to retool our franchise, and we got some assets here,” Coyotes general manager Don Maloney told Burns and Gambo on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Monday. “Nobody’s happy, from ownership on down, with the season we’re having.
“It’s one thing to miss the playoffs, barely, one year; it’s another to miss it by a country mile, so we have to take a hard look at how we operate, make some changes, get some young people in, restock, retool and get the base of our franchise back in order.”
Maloney said hopefully, sooner rather than later, the team will get back to being a contender for a Stanley Cup Championship.
The four deals, as of right now, undoubtedly made the Coyotes a worse team than they were before. In Yandle and Vermette, they lost their top two scorers. In Michalek, they parted with one of their better defensemen.
But the goal is not about trying to coax as many wins as possible out of the rest of the 2014-15 campaign. The team has lost its last nine games and 11 of its last 12, and while they would like to win more, the team’s moves are about the future.
And by acquiring talented youngsters like Maxim Letunov, John Moore and Anthony Duclair — along with draft picks — there would appear to be reason to expect better times for an organization that was in the Western Conference Finals just three years ago.
Duclair, acquired from the New York Rangers in the Yandle trade, is the piece that has the team really excited.
“When [Rangers GM Glen Sather] put Anthony Duclair’s name on the table, that’s what got our attention,” Maloney said. “He’s a young, 19-year-old winger with excellent speed and skill.”
A third-round pick in 2013, Duclair tallied 99 points for the Quebec Remparts in 2013-14, and had posted 25 in just 20 games for the team this season. In 18 games with the Rangers, he scored seven points on one goal and six assists.
And on top of that, he played with top Coyotes prospect Max Domi on the Canadian national team in the World Junior Championship last year, where he produced four goals and eight assists in seven games.
“The best line on the best team in the tournament,” Maloney said of the Duclair/Domi pairing. “So that’s the kind of player we have to start acquiring to build around, so when Glen brought his name into the deal, that was a starting point for us.”
When a team is rebuilding with eyes on being more than simply competitive, that often means taking chances on unproven players who have plenty of talent. If you hit on them, then you have something special.
And though the Coyotes are more stable with regards to ownership than they have been in quite some time, they are not likely to lure big-time stars to the desert via free agency. So you draft them (Domi in 2013, Brendan Perlini in 2014) and acquire them via trade (Duclair).
“We’re thrilled with what we have,” Maloney said. “Duclair was a key acquisition. You know, when you start to look at us two and three years down the road, and you say, ‘OK, they got Domi, they got this Duclair, drafted Perlini high,’ we’re going to get a great player in this year’s draft, we’ve got Christian Dvorak, the third-leading scorer in the OHL.
“We’ve got offensive talent coming. Now, they’re not going to help us score (Tuesday night) against Anaheim and we’re going to have to muscle through the rest of this season, but there are much better days ahead for us.”