Arizona Coyotes. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
After stumbling out of the gate to begin the season, the Arizona Coyotes could be on their way to a fire sale. If everything must go, the Coyotes have a lot of big decisions to make.
The Arizona Coyotes entered their Nov. 2 game against the Washington Capitals having lost six of seven games. That poor performance generated speculation of big roster changes.
Sportsnet's Damien Cox notes the Coyotes lack a true superstar. Taking into account their sputtering start and the possibility of missing the playoffs, he wonders if the new owners and GM Don Maloney might blow up the roster.
Cox believes “off-loading bodies” is the best way for the Coyotes to improve their chances of securing the rights to the first- or second-overall pick in the 2015 NHL draft. That would give them a shot at the Erie Otters' Connor McDavid or Boston University's Jack Eichel.
Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle's name has already appeared in this season's rumor mill. Cox believes veterans like Martin Hanzal, Sam Gagner, Mikkel Boedker, Lauri Korpikoski and struggling goalie Mike Smith all have trade value.
Since these reports appeared, however, the Coyotes defeated the Capitals and the Toronto Maple Leafs, taking some pressure off Maloney to shake things up. Besides, any significant moves must wait until Andrew Barroway, the Coyotes new majority owner, joins the IceArizona ownership group later this month.
The Arizona Republic's Sarah McLellan recently cast doubt on the possibility of help arriving via trade for the Coyotes, citing the gridlock of cumbersome contracts handcuffing rival clubs and the lack of teams in sell mode.
Assuming ownership and management agree to a massive roster rebuild, it probably won't begin until the weeks leading up to the March 2 trade deadline, and only if their playoff hopes are dashed.
Should the Coyotes start shedding players, the most likely are pending UFAs Vermette, Michalek and Erat. Yandle, who has one year remaining on his contract at a cap hit of $5.25 million, could also become a prime trade candidate. He lacks a no-trade clause and will be highly valued by playoff contenders. Gagner and Korpikoski could also be shopped.
Hanzal and Boedker undoubtedly have trade value but they're also worth retaining for a roster rebuild. As for Smith, he's under contract until 2018-19 at an annual cap hit of $5.66 million and possesses a no-movement clause. Unless the Coyotes pick up half of Smith's remaining contract or buy him out at season's end, he won't be going anywhere.
Don't expect them to trade defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. As Cox noted, the 23-year-old blueliner is the closest thing the Coyotes have to a superstar. If Yandle and Michalek are moved, Ekman-Larsson will be needed to anchor their rebuilding defense corps.
Finally, there's 38-year-old captain Shane Doan, who has one season remaining on his contract at a cap hit of $5.3 million. Though he's been part of the franchise since their days as the original Winnipeg Jets, he's never played for a Stanley Cup contender. Those chances will grow slimmer if he sticks with the Coyotes, especially if they commit to a rebuild.
Doan has a full no-movement clause and controls his fate. Though he's coming to the end of his long career, he would attract interest from teams seeking experienced leadership. Given his contract, however, the Coyotes might have to absorb part of his remaining salary to move him.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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