NHL trade deadline could help contenders, Coyotes’ rebuild at same time

When you consider the mess on and off the ice, it clearly wouldn’t be pleasant to run the Arizona Coyotes right now. Yet, for musty, nerdy armchair GMs, the Coyotes present a fascinating test case in running a full-on rebuild. And the Coyotes may indeed accelerate that rebuild, depending upon how the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline works out.

During the latest edition of TSN’s Insider Trading, Chris Johnston reported that the Coyotes would be willing to take on “contracts or money in exchange for future assets” heading into the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline.

Let’s take a look at how the Coyotes have already used trades to enhance their rebuild, then ponder how they might try to repeat those steps during the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline.

Other rebuilders (and builders?) could learn from Coyotes’ offseason

Honestly, the Coyotes handled the offseason a lot like I thought the Seattle Kraken should have. And Arizona didn’t even have the expansion draft as leverage.

That thought was especially prominent when the Coyotes made a deal that sure felt like it was something the Kraken could’ve embraced. The Flyers bribed the Coyotes to take Shayne Gostisbehere in a trade featuring a second-rounder going to Arizona.

Such a deal is already a win for the Coyotes, and it could get better if Arizona can flip the defenseman for even more picks/prospects in a future trade. (Someone, somewhere, may notice that Gostisbehere’s 28 points leaves him tied with Charlie McAvoy and Rasmus Dahlin.)

Rather than listing each pick, just consider how robust the Coyotes rebuild war chest is getting in visual form, via Cap Friendly:

That’s impressive, especially since they managed to jump into the first round of the 2021 NHL Draft thanks to bold trading.

[More on the steps Coyotes already took in their rebuild]

Sure, some moves were easier to make than others. Giving up Conor Garland, a 25-year-old gem who’s on a team-friendly contract, stings quite a bit.

But it was worth it to shake loose from Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s contract, and load up on good stuff, for the small price of taking on expiring contracts such as Loui Eriksson, Antoine Roussel, and Jay Beagle.

Possible 2022 NHL Trade Deadline partners who could help Coyotes rebuild

Ultimately, the Coyotes look very open-minded when it comes to taking on contracts/bad money for the sake of gathering assets. That’s why, heading into this exercise, I expected to list a ton of teams.

But with a potential new wrinkle in their perpetual nightmare of an arena situation, and their full commitment to a rebuild, how many players would waive their no-trade clauses to play for the Arizona Coyotes? Sure, some could. The weather’s better than in the frostiest markets.

Generally speaking, though, let’s assume players won’t be interested. That narrows the field down — yet doesn’t limit it to contenders alone. Feel free to discuss other possibilities in the comments, but these teams stand out as possible 2022 NHL Trade Deadline partners for the Coyotes.

The sweaty, desperate Oilers

Before signing Evander Kane, Oilers GM Ken Holland indicated that he didn’t want to make the sort of desperate trade deadline moves the Coyotes are hoping to exploit.

Still, there’s also no denying the air of desperation hanging over this franchise. That’s where Bill Armstrong can slide in and say, “Hey pal, let me help you out.” One name sticks out as an interesting potential trade bribe:

  • Zack Kassian, 31, carries a $3.2 million cap hit through 2023-24.

It’s unclear what would be the right price there. Holland probably wouldn’t want to hand over a 2022 first-rounder, and the second-rounder is tied up in Duncan Keith trade conditions.

[Oilers don’t want desperation trades, but did make desperation Kane signing]

Let’s be honest, though.

The Coyotes probably know their rebuild is going to take a while. Depending upon conditions, the Coyotes boast two extra first-rounders and four extra second-rounders for the 2022 NHL Draft. If the Coyotes offered to take on Kassian for 2023 or even 2024 NHL Draft picks, would Holland sweeten the deal?

One would think that Holland would label a lack of 2023 or 2024 NHL Draft picks as a “good problem to have.” (You know, because in that situation, he’d still be in charge of handling that problem.)

Aside: one other idea might be to take Mikko Koskinen’s $4.5M off the Oilers’ hands, so they can target someone like Marc-Andre Fleury at the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline.

Clearing space for those “blank check” Flyers — again

Other rebuilding NHL teams ought to use the Coyotes taking on Shayne Gostisbehere as a template.

If the Flyers back up their press conference and give Chuck Fletcher another offseason to work with, you have to think he’d be feeling the heat. That could again work to Arizona’s advantage.

James van Riemsdyk sticks out as a player the Flyers might want to unload. JVR’s already 32, and his $7M cap hit runs through 2023-24.

While the Flyers may end up selling at the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline with Claude Giroux, an “aggressive re-tool” may also involve clearing the decks for big spending next offseason. So getting JVR off the books could really be promising to fledgling Flyers GM Fletcher. The Coyotes could hope to pump up JVR’s value for an additional trade (like they may hope with Gostisbehere) by feeding him power-play opportunities.

Could be a bold swing where everyone wins.

The Flyers also stand in for a blander role the Coyotes could play at the NHL trade deadline. If a team wanted to launder some of Giroux’s $8.275M cap hit, why not let the Coyotes retain some of that for picks?

That’s where someone could pretend-waive their trade clauses for the Coyotes.

Clearing the deck for a team like the Wild?

In some quarters, Victor Rask gets too much grief. Yes, his $4M price tag is steep, but Rask brings value to the Wild.

Yet, with buyout-related salary cap bills looming during the next three seasons, what if the Wild want to take a big swing at the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline? The Coyotes might be able to facilitate a wild Wild swing by taking on Rask’s $4M.

Ultimately, this is just a smattering of the possibilities for the Coyotes to boost their rebuild at the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline. Especially if teams convince players to wave clauses.

A successful rebuild requires making the right picks, and developing those prospects properly. Arizona faces great challenges in those regards. Nonetheless, they’re already off to an impressive start, and could take more big steps.

Of course, it’s also up to Arizona’s trade partners to make it a win-win situation, instead of just a rebuild victory for the Coyotes.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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