ESPN Insider: Coyotes one of most improved teams over NHL Draft weekend

Jun 30, 2016, 6:07 AM
Jakob Chychrun, left, puts on his sweater as he stands with members of the Arizona Coyotes manageme...
Jakob Chychrun, left, puts on his sweater as he stands with members of the Arizona Coyotes management team at the NHL draft in Buffalo, N.Y., Friday June 24, 2016. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
(Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

With recent trades, signings and draft picks, the Coyotes front office has been busy.

Last week, the Coyotes signed defenseman Alex Goligoski after trading for his negotiation rights. In the first round of the draft, they picked center Clayton Keller at No.7 and defenseman Jakob Chychrun at No. 16. A day later, Arizona dealt a draft pick to Tampa Bay for AHL defenseman Anthony DeAngelo.

Days after the draft, ESPN senior writer Craig Custance put the Coyotes at No. 5 on a list of five teams that improved over the NHL Draft weekend. Custance writes that when Arizona got Goligoski to start their eventful week, they were getting one of the two best available blue-liners.

Those who thought the Coyotes didn’t get enough in return for taking on Pavel Datsyuk’s contract are missing the big picture: Arizona had a heck of a draft week.

There were two defensemen on the free-agent market who were on their own tier at the top: Goligoski and Keith Yandle.

Yandle cost the Panthers $6.35 million per season over seven seasons as well as two draft picks for the right to sign him (a fourth- and a sixth-rounder). The Panthers have the budget and cap space to pull it off, so we don’t mind the aggressive move.

But it highlights how well Arizona did in signing Goligoski to a reasonable five-year deal worth just less than $5.5 million per season.

Yandle is the higher-profile player of the two, but there were definitely teams looking for defensemen that preferred Goligoski’s versatility and consistency.

Yandle, a former Coyote, can be described as an offensive defenseman, while Goligoski plays a stronger two-way game. In 82 games with Dallas last season, Goligoski put up a plus-minus of +21 to go along with five goals and 37 points. His entrance to the Coyotes’ defensive pairings could fortify head coach Dave Tippett’s defensive emphasis.

Custance goes on to analyze the DeAngelo trade from Saturday.

At the draft, the Coyotes took a flyer on the talented Anthony DeAngelo in a trade with Tampa Bay. He has a ton of work to do defensively, and there’s room to mature, but nobody is debating his skill level, which is something that can’t be taught.

It was worth the gamble.

It’s a gamble indeed. When DeAngelo was on the OHL’s Sarnia Sting in the 2013-14 season, he was suspended on two separate occasions for violating rules against harassment and abuse. One such instance was for verbal abuse against a teammate.

Nonetheless, DeAngelo was drafted No. 19 overall two years ago by Tampa, and put up 6 goals and 43 points for the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch last season. He did, however, post a ghastly -18.

Finally, Custance praised the Coyotes for their first round selections.

And in grabbing Clayton Keller and defenseman Jakob Chychrun during the first round of the draft, it’s not a reach to say the Coyotes drafted two impact NHL players without a pick in the top five.

There are concerns about Keller’s size, especially playing center in the West, but coach Dave Tippett isn’t among the concerned.

“We talked about this a long time. The skill level is off the charts,” Tippett said when we chatted. “[Keller] is a dynamic player that has a skill set that can change the impact of the game, the outcome of the game. Watch the way the game is being played now — everything is so close. There are two or three times a player has a chance to have an impact on the game, then you get down to the percentages of that chance getting finished. He’s a guy with high percentages.”

Even though many expected the Coyotes – who have a thin defensive pipeline – to take a defenseman with their first pick, general manager John Chayka and his staff elected to go with Keller, a 17-year-old center. Keller put up 33 goals and 50 assists in 55 games with the U.S. National U18 Team last season, and even played at Gila River Arena for his team’s match against the Sun Devils.

Keller joins a center-heavy Coyotes system, which includes prospects Henrik Samuelsson and last year’s No. 3 overall pick, Dylan Strome.

Still in need of more young defensemen, the Coyotes picked up the contract of the retired and aforementioned Datsyuk from Detroit, as well as the No. 16 overall pick, in exchange for picks No. 20, No. 53, and forward Joe Vitale.

The Yotes used Detroit’s pick on Friday to draft Chychrun, a two-way defenseman who logged 49 points and a +23 in 62 games for the Sarnia Sting (OHL) last year.

After getting both a promising center and a defenseman, as well as a project D from Tampa and a veteran in Goligoski, the Coyotes selected more defensemen in later rounds of the draft. Then, on Monday, they signed goaltender Louis Domingue to a multi-year contract.

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ESPN Insider: Coyotes one of most improved teams over NHL Draft weekend