ARIZONA COYOTES

ESPN lists 3 Coyotes who could be on move at trade deadline

Aug 31, 2023, 4:22 PM

Jason Zucker #16 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates a goal in overtime during a game against the...

Jason Zucker #16 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates a goal in overtime during a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on March 02, 2023 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

As the dust settles from the NHL’s offseason, ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski instantly looked ahead to the next time there will be a flurry of transactions, the trade deadline.

Oftentimes, a free-agent signing or trade acquisition in the summer can be forecasted as someone potentially available later in the season, whether it’s the contract or team situation.

Wyshynski highlighted 10 total players, and three of them are members of the Arizona Coyotes.

While Coyotes fans have grown accustomed to seeing key pieces of the team traded away during general manager Bill Armstrong’s rebuild, this trio all came in during the last free agency period, one with a different pace. As Armstrong’s “Phase 2” gets underway, Arizona’s draft capital was stocked up and has already been put to use, at the cost of impactful long-term performers on the ice. Now, after a 13-point improvement, the Coyotes took steps toward improving the roster.

Jason Zucker, a 31-year-old forward signed on a one-year deal worth $5.3 million, is coming off a season with 27 goals and naturally makes sense as a rental a contender could target.

This is a good spot for him. At best, he clicks with players like Clayton Keller and rookie Logan Cooley, becomes a stabilizing veteran on a team turning the corner and earns a long-term extension in desirable locale — assuming the Coyotes remain in that location, of course. At worst, he produces well enough for Arizona to retain a little salary and ship this versatile winger to a contender at the trade deadline.

The Coyotes’ blueline was also reinforced with veteran defenseman Matt Dumba. Like Zucker, it’s a one-year deal, this one worth $3.9 million.

Dumba’s going to get a chance to log plenty of minutes and flaunt a side of his game that wasn’t at the forefront in Minnesota: veteran leadership from the now-29-year-old defenseman. If he wants to remain with the Coyotes and what they’re building, there’s a path to that. But if the right-side defenseman wants to hop to a contender’s blue line at the trade deadline, there’s a path to that too — Dumba doesn’t have any trade protection on his deal.

Lastly, the final name would not be a rental for a contender. 29-year-old center Alexander Kerfoot is not only on a two-year deal with an annual average salary of $3.5 million but he also has a 10-team no-trade list. While the center position is going to be by far the best it has been for the Coyotes in several years, thanks in part to Kerfoot and other young talent, the contract plus the opportunity at a breakout year could make him a guy that could yield a fairly significant return.

GM Bill Armstrong understands that he needs to augment his roster with some veteran talent in an effort to turn the Coyotes into contenders eventually. But if Kerfoot can get back to his 51 points-in-82 games play from two seasons ago — and he’ll have the ice time to do so in Arizona — a player with his contract and another year of control could be a valuable one come trade deadline time for teams that are thin at center.

It will be interesting to see what direction Armstrong goes if head coach Andre Tourigny’s growth continues at this rate, which would be at a more competitive number of around 80-85 points. Arizona’s high-end prospects have either already arrived or are soon on the way. Centers Logan Cooley and Barrett Hayton, plus wingers Matias Maccelli and Dylan Guenther will require some level of quality and veteran knowhow around them to properly develop.

That process will ultimately determine the long-term success the Coyotes have. Then again, playoff expectations are still a ways away, and if there are assets to be had, Armstrong will surely at least explore those conversations.

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