Arizona Coyotes get glowing grades from ESPN for offseason moves

Jul 12, 2023, 5:30 PM | Updated: 7:57 pm

Los Angeles Kings center Adrian Kempe (9) celebrates his goal against the Arizona Coyotes with King...

Los Angeles Kings center Adrian Kempe (9) celebrates his goal against the Arizona Coyotes with Kings defenseman Sean Durzi (50) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The Arizona Coyotes are finding themselves at the top of the class when it comes to their offseason comings and goings.

ESPN gave high-praise to the Valley’s hockey club, awarding them an “A” for their offseason moves, including free agency, draft and trades.

Arizona has added to their defense through trades and the draft, and forwards via free agency, all while staying $16 million under the cap.

Free Agency

So far this offseason, the Coyotes added a solid mixture of veterans and youth through free agency. The club added a pair of of veteran forwards — Nick Bjugstad and Jason Zucker — who add depth and experience behind Arizona’s young core.

Bjugstad, who arrived in the Valley last season from Edmonton, tallied 17 goals and 12 assists in 78 games between the two Western Conference teams. The 30 year old joins Nick Schmaltz and newly acquired Alexander Kerfoot as centers for the team’s new-look forwards.

Zucker, a 31-year-old winger, comes over after playing with the Pittsburgh Penguins and tallying 7 goals and 21 assists in 2022-23. The native-Californian could compete for top-line time after playing with Evgeni Malkin in Pittsburgh.

The aforementioned Kerfoot tallied 10 goals and 22 assists while playing all 82 regular season games for the Toronto Maple Leafs last year.


The team’s biggest addition of the offseason, arguably, was defenseman Sean Durzi. The 6-foot defenseman scored nine goals and 29 assists for the Los Angeles Kings in 2022-23. In two years in the NHL, he has tallied 12 goals and 53 assists while limiting his time in the box to 105 penalty minutes.

He was traded for a second-round draft pick in the 2024 draft.

At the time of the trade, Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong said Durzi was “a reliable two-way defenseman who has good vision and contributes offensively.”


With two picks in the first 12 selections of the draft, the Coyotes selected a pair of Russian prospects.

At No. 6, the club took 18-year-old defenseman Dmitri Simashev. The 6-foot-4 speedster was a plus-22 in 29 games with his Russian club.

“He has perfect posture, sinking deep into his stride, with ample flexibility through his hips, knees, and ankles, allowing him to generate power and agility that few can match,” Elite Prospects said in its draft profile.

At No. 12, the team took 18-year-old winger Daniil But. The 6-foot-5 winger played with his Arizona Coyote teammate Simashev for the past three seasons and scored 15 goals and had 11 assists in 26 games last season.

Early in the second round, the Coyotes also took 6-foot-7 goaltender Michael Hrabal, who has committed to play at UMass.

How the rest of the league falls

With good grades, comes bad grades. Some teams were ranked as high as Arizona, while some weren’t so lucky. Here’s how the rest of the league shook out:

A: Arizona Coyotes (A), Chicago Blackhawks (A), Los Angeles Kings (A), New Jersey Devils (A), Anaheim Ducks (A-), Carolina Hurricanes (A-), Colorado Avalanche (A-), Detroit Red Wings (A-), Seattle Kraken (A-).

B: Columbus Blue Jackets (B+), Dallas Stars (B+), Florida Panthers (B+), Nashville Predators (B+), Ottawa Senators (B+), Pittsburgh Penguins (B+), San Jose Sharks (B+), Winnipeg Jets (B+), Boston Bruins (B), Buffalo Sabres (B), Edmonton Oilers (B), St. Louis Blues (B), Vegas Golden Knights (B), New York Islanders (B-), New York Rangers (B-), Toronto Maple Leafs (B-).

C: Calgary Flames (C+), Minnesota Wild (C+), Montreal Canadiens (C+), Philadelphia Flyers (C+), Vancouver Canucks (C+), Washington Capitals (C+), Tampa Bay Lightning (C).

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