When your team finally gets to the playoffs for the first time in eight years and then gets decimated in the first round, changes must be considered and acted upon. The Arizona Coyotes offseason may be filled with changes to improve the team’s chances of getting to the postseason more often and with better results.
Arizona Coyotes Offseason Needs Some Changes
The Coyotes will more than likely lose Taylor Hall and with that, they need some offence desperately. To do this, there need to be some roster adjustments. Even if Hall is lost to free agency, the team is cap space bankrupt and to improve they need some money to make some changes.
So, players like Carl Soderberg ($4.75 million) and Brad Richardson ($1.25 million) will more than likely not be offered new contracts. With Hall potentially leaving that frees up another $3 million. That comes to $9 million and with the Marian Hossa long-term injury reserve pitching in $5.275 million, that helps. Getting out the calculator, that totals $14.275 million to sign players and get this team competitive.
Trades Could Happen
Depending on who the general manager is, trades could go down to help get an improved roster. Whether that general manager is Steve Sullivan or not, players who didn’t perform should be gone. Speaking of Sullivan, it was reported by Elliotte Friedman that other teams have shown an interest in Sullivan depending on whether he is promoted to general manager from the interim status he now holds.
Trades are negotiated by the general manager as well as the status of the head coach. Sullivan has been with the organization a long enough time to evaluate whether certain players need to be traded or a head coaching change needs to happen.
Another topic discussed by Friedman was the possibility of trading Oliver Ekman-Larsson. While his $8.25 million AAV no movement contract may be difficult to move, Friedman suggests it’s something to watch. Ekman-Larsson’s play has deteriorated since Rick Tocchet has been the head coach. Oliver only had nine goals and 21 assists this shortened season and that could be attributed to how Tocchet uses his captain. While OEL has not asked for a trade, it could be something he’s thinking about.
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) August 23, 2020
Much depends on what ownership and management intend to do to take this team to the next level. New owner Alex Meruelo has voiced since he bought the team that his goal is to win a Stanley Cup. Unfortunately with the current roster that isn’t happening.
What Kind of Return Can OEL Bring
Teams in need of a power-play blueliner could be interested in adding Ekman-Larsson to their roster. The Coyotes need scoring and one team who has an abundance of offensive stars is the Winnipeg Jets. They are loaded and one player who would help the Coyotes meagre offence is Nikolaj Ehlers. He has been involved in trade rumours in the past and he is a very skilled player. He stands 6′-0″, 172 pounds and was the Jets ninth overall selection in the NHL draft in 2014. Ehlers has scored 20 goals or more over the last four seasons. The Coyotes don’t have a single player like that now.
He actually could fill the offensive deficiency the Coyotes are experiencing. Ehlers has 115 goals and 142 assists in 369 career games. That’s a scoring ratio of 0.70 points per game. That would put him right up there with some other Coyotes players in that category. His possession numbers are off the chart with a Corsi For of 54.8 and a Relative Corsi For of 7.7. If there’s anything more than scoring that the Yotes need it’s better possession statistics going forward.
Now, to make this potential trade possible salary cap-wise the Coyotes may need to throw in another player, such as Christian Fischer who is coming off of his entry-level deal of $821,366. Fischer has been a bit of a disappointment with just 35 goals and 28 assists in 213 NHL games. He’s more of a checking forward and fourth-liner.
The Coyotes could then try to get another defenceman in Dylan DeMelo who has a $900,000 cap hit but is an unrestricted free agent once the season ends. He is a right-hand shot and that is something the Arizona club lacks.
This accomplishes saving the Coyotes some much-needed cap space too. Ehlers’s contract expires in 2025-26 while Ekman-Larsson’s is over the next year.
Good Deal For Both Teams
To make any potential trade work, both teams must satisfy their needs. This deal would do just that. Winnipeg is definitely hurting on the blue line and needs another defenceman to quarterback the power play. OEL would fit right in. Of course, he would need to approve the deal with his no-trade clause in his contract. The Jets would still have Patrik Laine (28-G, 35-A), Kyle Connor (38-G, 35-A), Blake Wheeler, (22-G, 43-A) and Mark Scheifele (29-G, 44-A) to put the puck in the net.
This would be a major shuffle for the Coyotes. They may even get a new general manager, and perhaps a new head coach. Trading your captain is not easy, but it has been done. When it comes to improving your team and moving forward, it must be done. Tocchet has had three years to get this team going, and he has only marginally done that. Ekman-Larsson got a huge new contract and has failed to live up to it. If this team can get another good scorer like Ehlers, they could be in the hunt next season to be playing in the postseason again.
If not, who knows how low this team can go.