Arizona Coyotes Free Agency Moves

Arizona Coyotes free agency

If you are an Arizona Coyotes fan, free agency was a pretty boring event. Sure the team managed to get bigger, yet no trade for Oliver Ekman-Larsson transpired. The team possesses very little salary cap space to do much. They have, however, chosen a few players who should help their fortunes going forward. We will try to give you a bit of background on all three players and how they fit into the Coyotes’ team.

2020 Arizona Coyotes Free Agency Selections

New general manager, Bill Armstrong has made it clear that he wants opposing teams to not look forward to going up against his team. In that respect, his three free agency selections bear to mind that the team needs to get tougher, and physically bigger. Here’s the breakdown:

Three New Players Added to the Roster

Johan Larsson

The 28-year-old Swede stands 5′-11″, 204 pounds and was the 56th overall selection in the 2010 NHL draft by the Minnesota Wild.  The left-wing/centre has played all but one game which was his first in the NHL with the Buffalo Sabres. His career statistics show 38 goals and 59 assists good for 97 points in 393 games. He has a career 8.6 percent shooting accuracy. Larsson’s career possession numbers show a 46.2 Corsi For and a -1.5 Relative Corsi.

His best season was this past season where he accumulated six goals and 12 assists in 62 games. He will fill a bottom-six role and signed a two-year $1.4 million AAV contract with the club.

Tyler Pitlick

The 28-year-old who is listed as a centre but says he hasn’t played that position since high school, signed a two-year $3.5 million contract with the team. He stands 6′-2″, 200 pounds and hails from Minneapolis, Minnesota. This will be his fourth team in a six-year NHL career. He previously has played for the Edmonton Oilers, Dallas Stars, and Philadelphia Flyers. He was the 31st overall selection of the Oilers in the 2010 NHL draft.

His best season was with the Stars during the 2017-18 season when he tallied 14 goals and 13 assists for 27 points in 80 games. Pitlick’s career statistics show 41 goals and 32 assists in 248 games.

Pitlick has a good 11.45 percent shooting accuracy and also has six game-winning goals to his credit. His face-off success rate is not especially appealing with a 35.6 percent success result. He has averaged 12:28 minutes of ice time in his career. He too will be competing for a bottom-six role on the team next season.

John Hayden

The 25-year-old right-shooting centre who grew up in Chicago, Illinois defines the goal of GM Armstrong to make the team bigger. He stands 6′-3″, 223 pounds. In other words, his physical presence will be a welcome addition to a team that needs some additional size. His career statistics are 11 goals and 15 assists totalling 26 points in 156 games with the Chicago Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers. Hayden’s best season was in 2017-18 when he had four goals and nine assists for 13 points in 47 games. His face-off success rate is poor at just 31.9 percent. He has averaged 10:01 minutes of ice time in his career.

His size will be an attribute to protect some of the smaller forwards like Clayton Keller or Conor Garland. He is not afraid to drop the gloves and had 77 minutes of penalties assessed to him last season to attest to that. Hayden will definitely add some toughness to the Yotes. He was signed to a one-year $750,000 contract.

Other Moves Must be Made

This team as it stands presently will not be a playoff team. Just the fact that the ownership team was open to trading defenceman Ekman-Larsson, indicates that the organization was considering blowing things up a bit and rebuilding. The team is adequate on defence and more than adequate in net. Their offence is less than appealing. If new GM Bill Armstrong can swing some deals to improve the team’s ability to turn on the red light, then they will be going somewhere.

That so far has not occurred and the list of available offensive players is decreasing every day as teams other than the Arizona club have improved their odds of winning a Cup. The players Armstrong has added in the Arizona Coyotes free agency activity will not be enough to improve the team substantially.

Just today, it was announced that the Coyotes were already listed as a 40-1 shot to win it all. That is not only depressing if you’re a fan; it seems to be a situation where the organization is still reeling from the John Chayka era. Armstrong really has his hands tied with respect to a lack of draft picks thanks to Chayka’s incompetence. Then, when you address the salary cap dilemma it presses Armstrong against the glass when he’s not even on the ice playing.

With the new signings, the team is now $1.77 million OVER the cap limit. Granted, the team will get some cap relief in the 2021-22 season when they will have an enormous amount of $32.9 million. That is due to the contracts of seven unrestricted free agent players and one long-term injury reserve player (Marian Hossa $5.275M) totalling $27.82 million will expire after next season. They also have three restricted free agents totalling $2.23 million included in that total.

The Post OEL No-Trade Syndrome

If anyone thinks everything will be just fine after the team attempted to trade OEL without any luck, then I have some swamp land here in the desert to sell you. The tension in the locker room will be intense, especially with a short break until when the next season starts. The COVID-19 made the NHL schedule a complete mess. The next season will need to be condensed to fit in a full season. That’s right, Bettman thinks they will get in an 82-game schedule for the 2020-21 campaign. Good luck with that. Whether or not head coach Rick Tocchet thinks OEL is captain material or not, his teammates may either rally around him or leave him out to dry.

Of course, we still don’t know the fate of head coach Tocchet. He was given some fairly talented players and still only qualified for the postseason due to the pandemic. His style of coaching could be attributed to how well players train before they come into training camp. With the short break between seasons, the players who don’t train correctly could be victims of injuries. Players like Antti Raanta, (aka Glass-man), Jason Demers, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Darcy Kuemper sustained debilitating injuries hurting the team’s chances in 2019-20. It should be noted that all these players had lower-body injuries.

It would not be surprising to see Tocchet get the heave-ho if the team falters early next season. If he does, will OEL’s performance begin to show signs of light again?

Are We Ever Going to See Any Trades?

The team has plenty of possibilities in the trade market. Unrestricted free agents like Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov, and restricted free agents Jack Roslovic, and Mathew Barzal are still available. The Yotes lack any offensive firepower and need to do something to address this issue. Unfortunately, nothing has gained Armstrong’s attention just yet.

While the three signings he did make are positive to address the team’s toughness and size issues, one glaring deficiency still remains.

A goal scorer.

Let’s see if there is one in the Coyotes’ future.

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