Over the past several weeks, it’s been revealed that the Arizona Coyotes may be thinking about a rebuild. There has been all kinds of rumours flying around concerning the future of such star players as Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Darcy Kuemper, and even Antti Raanta being dealt. One team who has been interested in making a deal has been the Calgary Flames. Their playoff woes continued as they got by the Winnipeg Jets in the qualifying round only to be shown the exit door in six games by the surprising Dallas Stars. The one player whose name keeps coming up in the rumour mills is forward Johnny Gaudreau.
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It’s already been mentioned by Elliotte Friedman of sportsnet.ca when he confirmed that the Flames have interest in OEL and/or Kuemper. Flames’ general manager Brad Treliving formerly an assistant GM in Arizona, is aware of what OEL brings to the rink and is in a situation where he has five unrestricted free agent defenders as well as one restricted free agent on his blueline when next season begins.
Johnny Gaudreau Brings Plenty to the Coyotes
Gaudreau has been in the NHL six full years and has played in 464 games with 151 goals and 294 assists for 445 points. He is a career 12.1 percent shooter. Even though he has been criticized for his lack of playoff contributions, he has eight goals and 11 assists in 30 postseason games. To any schooled NHL observer, those are pretty good statistics. The type of offensive numbers the Coyotes currently lack. Gaudreau brings 0.96 points per game, also something any player currently on the Coyotes’ roster has yet to show. One would need to go back to the 2011-12 season for the Coyotes, when Ray Whitney had 0.94 points per game to get close to Gaudreau’s career production.
Gaudreau’s contract has him receiving a $6.75 million AAV contract for the next two seasons. If you involve Ekman-Larsson he is drawing a huge contract of $8.25 million over the next seven years. Yes, that’s correct seven years. While the Flames need to address their blueline, they also need to determine what to do in net. Mike Smith has not impressed and David Rittich has one more year on his contract. Current backup Cam Talbot is an unrestricted free agent and 33-years-old. Even acquiring Raanta at his salary of $4.25 million could be an option. The problem with that is then both goalies would need a new contract after next season.
The fact that the Coyotes have surprisingly mentioned that they are considering trading Kuemper and must be evaluating what the return would be for him. There will be a number of teams who would love to add Kuemper to their roster. Before he got injured in December last year he was headed for a Vezina-like season. Missing two months really hurt the Coyotes and when Kuemper came back he demonstrated his worth in the qualifying round and playoffs.
How it Could Happen
If the Flames have genuine interest in OEL (and it seems they do) AND he agrees to being trade, what would a deal look like between the two teams? How about Gaudreau and Erik Gustafsson to Arizona in exchange for a top-four defenceman like Ekman-Larsson? Gustafsson makes $1.2 million currently and is a UFA after the season ends. With Gaudreau’s $6.75 million that would come to $7.95 million, bringing it within range of OEL’s $8.25 millon. Gustafsson would need a raise to say $2 million still keeping it possible numbers-wise.
The other scenario could be if the Flames wanted Kuemper, they would still send Gaudreau to Arizona and even add a first round draft pick, which Arizona sorely missed when sanctions were laid down against them.
Johnny Gaudreau Has Speed
Adding a player like Gaudreau to the already fast and young Coyotes’ roster would definitely upgrade their club. Just imagine the speed and playmaking ability he’d provide. When combined with other speedsters like Michael Grabner and Clayton Keller, opposing teams would have difficulty keeping up. He has twice eclipsed the 20-goal mark and has two 30 or more goals scored seasons to his credit. Boy, could the Coyotes use that.
Losing Players is Always Tough
There will be some deliberations as to whether losing OEL or Kuemper is worth it. The team is at a crossroads now. Improving to get back into the playoffs and move to a more elite status in the league has to be on their radar. Adding a player like Gaudreau is a step in the right direction. Like any trade, there are pluses and minuses to consider. Is OEL tired of not winning, and ready to move on? Would trading Kuemper all but ruin the excellent defence and goaltending the team now possesses? He was believed to be the team’s most valuable player and losing a player like that is never easy. Just as Friedman stated, moving Kuemper must include receiving a first round pick in any deal. The question is does Calgary wish to do that?
Johnny Gaudreau’s Future
One thing is certain, Johnny Gaudreau is not nicknamed “Johnny Hockey” for nothing. He can play. He can score, and he can be an excellent playmaker. Gaudreau would step right in to the first line on the Coyotes. Whether Johnny Gaudreau will be in a Coyotes’ uniform or not, the concept of him being more than able to add an influx of offence to the Desert Dogs goes without saying. The time for change is now… let’s see what happens.