Coyotes coach: We tried everything we could to land Auston Matthews
That the Arizona Coyotes would have had interest in Auston Matthews was not really a surprise.
Not only was he the consensus best prospect in the 2016 NHL Draft who played a position of need at center, but Matthews also is from Scottsdale, AZ.
It would have been a perfect match, if not for the fact that the Coyotes held the seventh overall pick and, well, Matthews was never going to last that long.
So if the Coyotes were to land Matthews, they would have had to swing a deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs, who held the No. 1 overall selection.
In the weeks prior to the draft, rumors of the Coyotes’ interest in making a trade swirled, with one report saying the team was willing to trade their two first-round picks (Nos. 7 and 20) and either Max Domi or Christian Dvorak.
It seems like a steep price, but when you’d be landing an 18-year-old who in 36 games last season for the ZSC Lions of the National League tallied 24 goals, 22 assists and six PIM and for a while now has been viewed as a can’t-miss prospect, perhaps there is no such thing as too much to give up.
Whether that specific deal — or another — was ever on the table is anyone’s guess, but as Coyotes coach Dave Tippett told Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Tuesday, their interest in Matthews was legitimate.
“We tried every different angle, remotely, we could,” he said of making a trade. “That’s right to the weekend before the draft — both John Chayka and I took Auston for lunch and got to know him a little better, but there was really nothing.
“Toronto had the plan in place and they were going to stick with their plan and take the No. 1 pick. If I was sitting on Toronto’s side I wouldn’t blame them. He’s going to be a fantastic player. Toronto just never, ever entertained the fact of moving him at all, and you have to respect that. As much as we would have liked to have him in Arizona, being an Arizona kid and a great player, it just was not something that Toronto would ever consider doing and a lot of the rumors get started out there, but there was never any traction to it, Toronto was very firm at the start and never changed their course.”
With a deal for Matthews off the table (if it ever really was on it), the Coyotes stood pat at No. 7 and took center Clayton Keller. Then, instead of waiting for their 20th pick, they made a trade with the Detroit Red Wings to move up to 16, where they chose defenseman Jakob Chychrun.
Their work over the two-day draft has been widely praised, though it will be a few years before we really know how well the team did.