While the Arizona Coyotes trade deadline showed no activity, according to general manager Bill Armstrong that may be a good thing. His philosophy has been since he took over six months ago, that if this team can be in the hunt for a postseason berth, he would try to keep the group together.
Whether that train of thought runs over him like a train, is yet to be determined.
Arizona Coyotes Come up Empty at Trade Deadline
We may never know how many phone calls Armstrong received; or what kind of proposed deals he was presented with to accept or reject. He obviously believes in the group he presently has on the roster and wants to see how far they can or can’t go. Some may say that’s dedication, but is it based on reality or wishes and dreams?
So fans of the team may have been expecting some deals to help the faltering Coyotes get to the playoffs. After all they have now lost four straight games on this extended nine-game road trip. Going 3-5 on this road trip has not been ideal, with playoff implications written all over it.
They still aren’t out of the woods with three of their next four games against the Minnesota Wild, and the other game against the St. Louis Blues. The Desert Dogs have not been able to tame the Wild this season. They’ve dropped four of five games against them while being outscored 18-7.
With 12 Free Agents Onboard, Still No Movement for the Arizona Coyotes at the Trade Deadline
Even though the Coyotes had 12 free agents on their roster, Armstrong still didn’t see a deal he liked. It seems he’s an optimist in respect to his team getting into the playoffs. While making a deal just for the sake of making one is never a good path to follow, this team needs help.
Even if they are fortunate enough to get to the playoffs, they would face either the Vegas Golden Knights or the Colorado Avalanche. That would not be too pretty as the Arizona club is 2-5-1 against the Avs and 1-5 against the Golden Knights. That doesn’t hold well for their chances of survival to move onward in the postseason. Still, getting to the playoffs is a goal each NHL team strives for, and you never know what can happen.
Armstrong Believes in This Group
When asked by arizonasports.com about the lack of trade deadline moves Armstrong said, “Our group has really done a great job, especially over the last month fighting to get into a spot to earn the right to get into the playoffs,” Armstrong said Monday after the trade deadline passed. “I think they’ve earned my respect in the fact that we’re going to keep the group together to go forth.”
He also believes that the pressure of qualifying for the playoffs is helping build character for his team.
“Pressure is a great thing when you’re developing your team … Where you’re under the pressure every night to get in and you get into the grind, you kind of get used to that,” Armstrong said. “It kind of forms a tougher, harder team.”
“That pressure is what defines your group in the end. If we could let that pressure make us a lot better and achieve and get into the playoffs, I think it’d show our fans — it would say something about our core, too, our core of young players that are coming.”
Armstrong May Extend a Player Like Alex Goligoski
When asked about one of the 12 free agents on the roster, Armstrong had praise for veteran Alex Goligoski. He credits Jakob Chychrun‘s elevated play to playing alongside Goligoski. Armstrong even mentioned that Goligoski “is part of the equation for us moving forward.” Now that doesn’t sound like a player whose contract is expiring and may be testing free agency.
If Armstrong is serious about keeping Goligoski, his $5.475 million contract will need to be carved down a bit. The other factor is his age as he turns 36 in July. Who else might Armstrong keep on from the group of free agents?
Three young free agent players who have done well include Conor Garland (10-G, 21-A), Dryden Hunt (3-G, 2-A), and Michael Bunting (8-G-1-A). It seems certain all will receive new elevated contracts. In the case of Garland, he was rumoured to be traded but wasn’t. That doesn’t mean that it still couldn’t happen in the offseason. If the right deal comes along that Armstrong can’t resist, his job is to make his team better.
The Coyotes will certainly be looking towards free agency, and perhaps making some trades in the offseason. Their lack of scoring must be addressed. The defence should also be fortified with the uncertainty of five UFA’s after the season ends. Then, there’s the goalie situation to resolve. Whether it’s training, conditioning or whatever, the fact that both starter Darcy Kuemper and backup Antti Raanta have both had excessive injuries is debilitating the team’s chance at success. It very well could be that they trade Kuemper and that Raanta goes to free agency (good luck).
That will mean they could be in the market for either a starting goalie or backup netminder (or both) depending on Kuemper’s status. Even worse, there’s no guarantee that Adin Hill will be on the roster next season since he could be lost to Seattle in the expansion draft in July. That will make Bill Armstrong‘s job even more difficult and that’s without even considering the future of head coach Rick Tocchet. Just like Armstrong has shown patience with the free agents, he is giving Tocchet some leeway to see how the Coyotes do down the stretch.
In other words, the 2021-22 Arizona Coyotes will have a whole new look. The Armstrong look. Let’s hope it becomes them.