Bill Armstrong mentioned when he took the general manager’s job with the Arizona Coyotes that he had a plan. Over the past week, everyone has been able to get a glimpse of his plan. While he may not be calling it a ‘rebuild’, what else can describe it?
When you trade three major ingredients to your roster, including Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Conor Garland, and Darcy Kuemper, while getting plenty of future assets and little in terms of current talent, it’s a rebuild.
Arizona Coyotes Offseason Moves Define a Rebuild
Most teams going through it don’t like to admit that they are in the midst of a rebuild. For one thing, almost all players would rather not be on a team executing a rebuild. More than likely, Kuemper decided that since his contract was expiring after the 2021-22 season that he had no inclination of re-signing a new contract.
The same seems to apply to Phil Kessel who doesn’t want to stick around in the desert on a team doing a rebuild. More than likely he would have been traded before the trade deadline, but now it seems he’s motivated to go as soon as possible. He may gather a third-round pick and/or a prospect going back.
So what is it about the word “REBUILD”? For one thing, it pretty much says you’ll be on a losing team tanking to get the shot at a top draft pick instead of competing for a playoff spot.
Living Through a Rebuild Can be Worthwhile
Look, nobody is accusing Armstrong of trying to blow up the team just for the sake of doing it. He has a plan. He knew coming into this job that he needed to re-supply the draft cupboard of the team. Because of his predecessor’s mismanagement, the team didn’t have a 2020 draft pick until the fourth round and then they blundered badly by selecting Mitchell Miller. They renounced their pick when they discovered Miller’s past off-ice behaviour wasn’t acceptable. So, now Armstrong is getting the ship back in order. Some fans believe that he is certainly doing a rebuild at this point.
The Coyotes appear to have vengeance in their heart for being punished by the NHL and their sights set on the 1st overall pick in next year’s entry draft. If they get any games with sell out attendance this season, their marketing department should all get big raises.
— Bruce Lane (@Quarky_Hiker) July 29, 2021
The Arizona Coyotes will have two first-round and five second-round selections in what is expected to be an excellent talented 2022 draft. Thus, the rewards of going through a rebuild can be fruitful. How do you spell Shane Wright in 2022 or Connor Bedard in 2023? Realistically no matter how much it hurts Coyotes’ fans to lose key players, Armstrong knows what he’s doing. He’s REBUILDING! IF the Coyotes could get one of these young, dynamic future NHL superstars, they will be headed back to respectability in short order. Even if they don’t, the drafts over the next two years will be deep and full of talent. In other words, Armstrong and his scouting staff have done their homework.
It’s Not The End of The World
Just to review, other teams who are now very successful have gone through a rebuild and came out smelling like roses. Take the 2016-17 Colorado Avalanche for instance. Their three top players hardly showed any offensive prowess. Nathan MacKinnon had 53 points, 16 goals. Mikko Rantanen had 38 points, 20 goals, and Gabriel Landeskog had 33 points with 18 goals. The following year the trio exploded. MacKinnon had 97 points, with 39 goals. Rantanen tallied 84 points with 29 goals, and Landeskog had 62 points offering 25 goals. That was a 72.2 percent increase which needless to say has helped the Avalanche to be a playoff team since then.
While the history of the Coyotes does not show that they have been successful in developing draft picks, that will more than likely change under Armstrong’s rule. He already has some good prospects on the way in the form of Victor Soderstrom (9th overall in 2019), Barrett Hayton (5th Overall in 2018), Jan Jenik (65th overall in 2018) and just selected Dylan Guenther with the 9th overall selection this year. Armstrong is a firm believer in not rushing prospects to the NHL level until they are ready. So, while a rebuild is painful, it can return substantial rewards with patience and perseverance.
Reviewing The Two Big Trades
Oliver Ekman-Larsson/Connor Garland to Vancouver Trade
For many, the Ekman-Larsson/Garland trade was inevitable. In an age where the flat salary cap ruled, most general managers were wheeling and dealing to improve their teams. Ekman-Larsson’s huge contract was an albatross weighing down the franchise and Armstrong knew it. It took some time and unfortunately cost them a talented forward in Garland. Yet, when you look at the long-term savings the team negotiated by sending OEL’s contract north, it seems logical. Garland was just the cost. Vancouver has got themselves a forward who will become an instant fan favourite from the time he first steps on the ice.
For the Coyotes, they picked up additional draft picks and had the luxury with tons of cap space to take three overpaid contracts off of the Canucks’ general manager Jim Benning‘s hands. It worked for both teams. They both achieved their objective. The three players (Jay Beagle, Loui Eriksson, and Antoine Roussel) the Coyotes took over the contracts for will not turn the team’s misfortunes around. They will be gone after 2021-22 since their contracts expire. That gives Armstrong some additional wiggle room to work more cap space magical deals.
This trade displayed to all Coyotes’ fans that the rebuild is in full force. While many are wondering who will protect the net going forward, trading Kuemper was also painful but necessary. He didn’t want to be in the desert, so Armstrong dealt him. Many feel Armstrong fleeced the Av’s Joe Sakic since he was without a starting goalie when former starter Philipp Grubauer signed with the Seattle Kraken. Getting a good young defenceman like Conor Timmins AND a first-round pick was unheard of… and this was a win for the Coyotes. It appears that Timmins may step right into the first blueline combination with Jakob Chychrun.
Again both teams got what they wanted in this trade. The Avalanche are attempting to win a Cup, and Kuemper (if he stays healthy) will certainly be a huge part of that ambition. For the Coyotes, adding another young player like Timmins, who was not going to be able to break into the lineup in Colorado, is a plus for certain. The first-round pick was the icing on the cake. Armstrong will resolve the goalie situation by signing or trading for a veteran netminder to complement newly acquired Carter Hutton. Will it be ideal? Of course not.
It’s a rebuild. Live with it.