When you take a look at the Arizona Coyotes blueline for 2021-22, it is quite apparent that they have five of their starting seven players with expiring contracts. The only defencemen who do not have expiring contracts in that group are Oliver Ekman-Larsson ($8.25M through 2026-27), and Jakob Chychrun ($4.6M through 2024-25). The five who either need to be traded or extended before the 2021-22 season include: Alex Goligoski ($5.475M), Niklas Hjalmarsson ($5M), Jason Demers ($3.938M), Jordan Oesterle ($1.4M, and Ilya Lyubushkin ($1M).
What the Arizona Coyotes Blueline May Look Like in 2021-22
A lot may depend on what new general manager Bill Armstrong wants to do with his roster. He’s made it clear that what you see now is what he’s going with for 2020-21. But, what about the following season with 71.4 percent of his defence not under contract? When you examine the possibilities of which unrestricted free agents may be available for 2021-22, it doesn’t look that promising according to capfriendly.com.
Yet, one player stands out in that available group of prospective UFA’s. Dougie Hamilton. Towering at 6′-6″, 229 pounds, Hamilton would be a good addition to the Arizona Coyotes blueline. He also is an excellent possession player with a career Corsi For of 55.6, and a relative Corsi of 4.8. Hamilton was an amazing +30 in the elusive +/- statistic if that interests you. He collected 14 goals and 26 assists for 40 points in 47 games in 2019-20. He sustained a broken fibula and missed 21 games.
In fact, both he and the Coyotes Derek Stepan have expiring contracts after next season. Do we see a potential deal in the works? Stepan makes $6.5 million and Hamilton is at $5.75 million. Stepan is 30 years old and Hamilton is 27. Derek Stepan could accept a lower salary as his production has decreased although, that could be due to how he is used presently. Or, if that weren’t enough would the addition of Victor Soderstrom sweeten the deal for Carolina? If the Coyotes don’t want to part with Soderstrom (who could blame them?) then how about offering up Kyle Capobianco? The possibility of having a first-line defensive unit of OEL and Hamilton has to make fans salivate. The Hurricanes can add Brock McGinn ($2.1M) to even out the salaries.
Who Would Stay?
Obviously, Hjalmarsson doesn’t want to leave the desert and made that clear when he invoked his no-trade clause for next season. But, what about the following season? Do the Coyotes keep him on for another year or two just because he is a second goalie, in effect, with his shot-blocking ability? Why not? He is injury prone due to the numerous shots he blocks, but he is a sound defensive D-man. Keeping Oesterle must be considered since his play has elevated enough to offer him another contract.
Demers is a questionable addition, yet he is a right-hand shooting blueliner which is difficult to come by. Still, if he can be dealt for some much-needed draft picks, it must be considered. Now, the senior member of the group Goligoski has his merits as well. Considering his age, his play at times was better than OEL’s last season. Keep him, he’s valuable. Lyubushkin was a good physical force, so he can be extended as well.
2021-22 Prospective Blueline Lineup
Hamilton – OEL
Goligoski – Demers
Hjalmarsson – Oesterle
Evaluating the Projected 2021-22 Arizona Coyotes Blueline
One must admit that adding a purely physical force like Dougie Hamilton to the Coyotes’ blueline has to be a huge addition. Not only would opponents stop picking on the Yotes smaller forwards like Conor Garland and Clayton Keller, but he also plays on the power play and penalty killings units. That versatility is invaluable, and that is more than likely why the ‘Canes won’t trade him. A deal like this would come down to what do the Hurricanes want in return? That very well could be Soderstrom, a budding young defenceman who was the Coyotes 11th overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. The Hurricanes have an overabundance of right-shooting D-men, so giving up Hamilton may not be a hardship. The recovery from his leg injury is still unknown. That alone could kill a deal like this.
One issue needs to be resolved concerning the Coyotes’ defence. Their average age currently is 29.3 years-old. Their offence has an average age of just 25.3 years old. They need to get younger and that means players like Goligoski (35), Demers (32), and Hjalmarsson (33) must be replaced soon. The thing is, all three will be UFA’s after next season. GM Armstrong needs to address that. Besides the youthful Soderstrom (19), Capobianco (23), and Cameron Crotty (21) their fountain of youth is draining quickly.
The Arizona Coyotes defence will need a face lift (literally) and some deals need to be made. They are very low on draft picks and sometimes they don’t use emotional intelligence when they do select a player. There’s plenty of assets to do transactions but most GM’s have their hands tied with a flat salary cap and a pandemic to worry about. If there are no fans in the seats next season, things could get very grim for a sport that relies heavily on gate revenue.
If the team can add Hamilton, it will only accelerate OEL’s resurgence since that duo would be an awesome first defensive unit. OEL with Demers or Goligoski just isn’t doing much. With two outstanding defencemen on the Coyotes’ blueline, opponents won’t know which player to cover and when. OEL has averaged 0.50 points per game, while Hamilton has an outstanding 0.85 points per game average. Points from the blueline could augment the mediocre offence the Coyotes possess.
Will Hamilton become a Coyote? Only time will tell.