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Arizona Coyotes 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 24-26-6, 54 points

5th in the Honda NHL West Division

Missed the postseason for the first time since 2020

Additions: F Jay Beagle (acquired from VAN), F Travis Boyd, F Ryan Dzingel, F Loui Eriksson (acquired from VAN), F Dmitrij Jaskin, F Bokondji Imama (acquired from LAK), F Andrew Ladd (acquired from NYI), F Liam O’Brien, F Antoine Roussel (acquired from VAN), D Shayne Gostisbehere (acquired from PHI), D Cole Hults (acquired from LAK), D Vladislav Kolyachonok (acquired from FLA), D Anton Strålman (acquired from FLA), D Conor Timmins (acquired from COL), G Carter Hutton, G Josef Korenar (acquired from SJS)

Subtractions: F Michael Bunting (signed with TOR), F Brayden Burke (traded to LAK), F Derick Brassard (signed with PHI), F Michael Chaput (signed with PIT), F Christian Dvorak (traded to MTL), F Conor Garland (traded to VAN), F John Hayden (signed with BUF), F Dryden Hunt (signed with NYR), F Tyler Pitlick (expansion, SEA), F Lane Pederson (rights traded to and signed with SJS), F Emil Pettersson (KHL), F Tyler Steenburgen (traded to LAK), F Nathan Sucese (signed with Iowa Wild, AHL), D Oliver Ekman-Larsson (traded to VAN), D Alex Goligoski (signed with MIN), D Jordan Gross (signed with COL), D Niklas Hjalmarsson (retired), D Jordan Oesterle (signed with DET), G Adin Hill (traded to SJS), G Darcy Kuemper (traded to COL), G Antti Raanta (signed with CAR)

Still Unsigned: F Frédérik Gauthier, F Marian Hossa (retired, contract expired), D Jason Demers, D Aaron Ness

Re-signed: F Hudson Fasching, F Blake Speers, D Cam Dineen, D Dysin Mayo

Offseason Analysis: Arizona took on a bunch of contracts this offseason, but still has about $11.946 million in cap space as Coyotes General Manager, Bill Armstrong, put on a masterclass of how to effectively clean house to rebuild.

The Coyotes are paying a combined $1.500 million this season for the services of Carter Hutton and Josef Korenar in the crease after signing Hutton in free agency and acquiring Korenar and a 2022 2nd round pick via a trade with the San Jose Sharks that sent Adin Hill in return.

Antti Raanta, meanwhile, left for the Carolina Hurricanes, seeking a career resurgence after a rocky, injury filled, tenure in Arizona, while Darcy Kuemper was traded the same day free agency began on July 28th to the Colorado Avalanche for defender, Conor Timmins, a 2022 1st round pick and a conditional 2024 3rd round pick.

Whereas the Buffalo Sabres viewed goaltending as an afterthought this offseason, the Coyotes, uhh, planned this?

Hutton had a 1-10-1 record in 13 games for the Sabres last season and recorded a 3.47 goals-against average and an .886 save percentage in that span, while Korenar made his NHL debut for the Sharks and went 3-5-0 in 10 games with a 3.17 goals-against average and an .899 save percentage.

But goaltending wasn’t the biggest focus for Arizona this offseason as they completely stripped down their roster and planned for a major reset between now and next summer.

Only 19 players throughout the organization are signed through the 2022-23 season, including six players currently on the NHL roster.

After trading Hill and a 2022 7th round pick to the Sharks for Korenar and a 2022 2nd round pick on July 17th, Armstrong made sure to add salary to work his way to the cap floor that same day by acquiring Andrew Ladd from the New York Islanders in addition to a 2021 2nd round pick that originally belonged to Colorado (60th overall, Janis Jerome Moser), as well as a conditional 2023 3rd round pick for future considerations.

Ladd’s been buried in the American Hockey League (AHL) in recent years with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (now Bridgeport Islanders) and last played at the NHL level in four games with New York in 2019-20– scoring one goal that season.

As crazy as it sounds, Arizona might use Ladd on their roster. At 35-years-old, he’s in his final run, but with two years remaining on his contract at a $5.500 million cap hit, he’s one of the few players left on the team entering 2022-23– unless he’s moved before then or retires.

Philadelphia saw what the Islanders did and said “hey, we can do that too” and traded defender, Shayne Gostisbehere, to the Coyotes with a 2022 2nd round pick and a 2022 7th round pick in exchange for future considerations.

Arizona takes on Gostisbehere’s remaining two years of his current contract at $4.500 million per season and looks to resurrect his offensive game from the blue line since his career-high 65 points in 78 games with the Flyers in 2017-18.

Last season, Gostisbehere bounced back from 12 points in 42 games in 2019-20 with a respectable 20 points in 41 games, but it’s not enough to justify his price tag amid a plethora of defenders looking to crack Philadelphia’s lineup on a regular basis, so the Coyotes are glad to give Gostisbehere a warm welcome.

A day after acquiring Gostisbehere, Arizona made waves when they traded their captain, Oliver Ekman-Larsson with the rights to then restricted-free agent forward, Conor Garland, to the Vancouver Canucks for Loui Eriksson, Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel, a 2021 1st round pick (9th overall, Dylan Guenther), a 2022 2nd round pick and a 2023 7th round pick in return on July 23rd.

Ekman-Larsson’s production has been in decline since recording 21-34–55 totals in 75 games with the Coyotes in 2015-16. He followed that season up with 39 points in 79 games in 2016-17, and 42 points in 82 games in 2017-18, before signing an eight-year extension with an $8.250 million cap hit on July 1, 2018, that would go into effect for the 2019-20 season.

In 2018-19, Ekman-Larsson had 14-30–44 totals. In 2019-20, he had 30 points (nine goals, 21 assists) in 66 games and just last season, Ekman-Larsson had 24 points (three goals, 21 assists) in 46 games for Arizona.

So the Coyotes packaged him with Garland to a team that Ekman-Larsson had expressed a desire in being traded to entering last offseason (Ekman-Larsson would only accept a trade to the Boston Bruins or Vancouver, but Arizona held out and kept him for the 2020-21 season).

Garland signed an extension with the Canucks, while Arizona also retained 12% of Ekman-Larsson’s salary (about $990,000 per season through 2026-27) in the aftermath of the deal.

Meanwhile, Eriksson, Beagle and Roussel are looking for a fresh start in a new market– though they each have one-year remaining on their contracts, so they probably shouldn’t get too comfortable.

Eriksson managed to earn one assist in seven games last season for Vancouver, while Beagle was limited to 30 games due to injury and had 1-4–5 totals and Roussel chipped in four points (one goal, three assists) in 35 games.

So they’re not offensive powerhouses, but the Coyotes aren’t going for a Cup ring this season– they’re going for a complete reset as they continued to wheel and deal this offseason.

Arizona swapped minor leagues with the Los Angeles Kings in a trade on July 24th, then took July 25th off before acquiring defender, Anton Stålman, from the Florida Panthers for a 2023 7th round pick on July 26th.

Strålman fell out of favor in Florida after scoring 19 points from the blue line in 69 games in 2019-20 before dropping to nine points in 38 games last season with the Panthers.

Needing cap space, the Panthers moved on from Strålman, dropping him and his $5.500 million cap hit, along with defender, Vladislav Kolyachonok, off with the Coyotes for the 2021-22 season, where the 35-year-old defender is hungry to keep his playing days alive in the twilight of his career.

With a few new faces on defense, Arizona is ready for life in a post-Niklas Hjalmarsson world, since the 34-year-old native of Sweden retired after five points (all assists) in 41 games with the Coyotes last season.

On July 28th, Arizona executed the Kuemper trade, then the phone lines went silent for about a month until the Carolina Hurricanes signed Jesperi Kotkaniemi to an offer sheet that the Montréal Canadiens wouldn’t match.

Montréal inquired the Coyotes about the availability of Christian Dvorak on the trade market and he was shipped off the Habs on Sept. 4th for a conditional 2022 1st round pick (the worse of the Canadiens’ own or Carolina’s) and a 2024 2nd round pick.

By the way, Arizona hired a new head coach this offseason, naming André Tourigny as the designated leader to guide the rebuild down to the depths and back to the surface of playoff contention.

That should be fun.

At least Tourigny has a good repertoire among major junior players and can settle into the NHL level with whoever the Coyotes draft in 2022.

Offseason Grade: A-

Look, just because the offseason grade says “A-” doesn’t mean this team will actually be competitive.

Yes, the Coyotes are going to finish last in the Central Division– by the way, they’re new to the Central this season since the Seattle Kraken joined the league and took Arizona’s spot in the Pacific Division.

But it’s also true that Armstrong made most of the right moves that aligned with Arizona’s offseason philosophy– embrace the tank.

The Coyotes are loading up on draft picks, prospects and whatever scraps you can find with other teams’ bad contracts and should turn things around in the next few years.

Of course, there’s the fact that this seems to happen way too often in Arizona and the concern among the fanbase that things might not go as planned with their expected relocation from Glendale to Tempe, Arizona as the City of Glendale has booted the team out of their space at Gila River Arena after the 2021-22 season– opting out of their current lease agreement, as the city could in accordance with agreed upon clauses.

But for all things considered, the Coyotes have a plan. The same can’t be said for Buffalo.

By Nick Lanciani

I have a degree in communication and yet I cannot find the words for this bio. Anyway, I write stuff on Down the Frozen River, make/appear on podcasts, used to write stuff for Couch Guy Sports and apply to jobs for a living when I'm not painting something cool to distract myself from my unemployment.