Cleat Geeks

The Arizona Coyotes Cleaned Out Their Den

It’s been a busy and eventful last week for the Arizona Coyotes to say the least. First, the team traded starting goalie and six-year Coyote Mike Smith to the Calgary Flames. After that they announced that Shane Doan, the team captain and a 21-year member of the franchise, would not be extended a contract offer as a free agent. A few days later it was announced that Dave Tippett, the team’s coach since 2009 and also their executive vice president of hockey operations, mutually agreed to part ways with the team, after negotiating a $3 million dollar buyout. This move signaled that the  relationship between Tippett and owner Andrew Barroway, who bought out the team’s minority owners on June 12, had reached its breaking point.

The Tippett news wasn’t a total surprise, John Chayka said, but he still hoped the veteran coach could return.

“I was certainly hoping he was coming back for another season. Having said that, it wasn’t out of the blue necessarily. But you think that things can kinda work moving forward, but that’s life,” he said. “Sometimes they don’t work. It doesn’t mean I don’t love Tip and everything he brought to the organization. All his blood, sweat and tears he put into it. It was appreciated. And we’re trying to build off of that.”

From the outside, it would appear that Barroway wielded an incredible amount of influence on these decisions.

“He’s 100 percent owner. Usually those guys have some influence,” said Chayka.

“I work well with him. I respect him. I think he’s trying to do what’s right with the organization in his mind, moving forward. He’s all-in, right? He wants what’s best. Wants to help find us an arena and keep us there long-term. He wants to help us build a team. He’s invested emotionally, financially, everything. I respect that about him. “

Was he disappointed that Tippett and Barroway couldn’t find a way to work together?

“It’s not my relationship to really comment on. I think when you’ve endured what we have in Arizona, which has been difficult, it wears on you. It’s tough. It’s difficult. It isn’t easy on anybody. I think over the years, it’s difficult. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t,” he said.

So now, as John Chayka attempts to build a winning roster in Arizona, he needs to find someone new to coach them. All in due time.

“The next coach? I’m 24 hours past Dave Tippett,” said Chayka. “He’s a tough guy to get over.”

 One day later on Friday, the Coyotes made two significant deals. The first was with the Chicago Blackhawks and the second was with the New York Rangers.

The Blackhawks Trade- This move took advantage of the financial condition of two teams who are on the complete opposite ends of the NHL salary cap spectrum. The Coyotes have not yet reached the salary cap floor, while the Blackhawks are strapped for salary cap room. Therefore, the Coyotes added salary and talent while the Blackhawks essentially got weaker yet gained some cap room in the trade that sent Niklas Hjalmarsson from the Blackhawks to the Coyotes for defenseman Connor Murphy and center Laurent Dauphin. In Hjalmarsson the Coyotes are getting a 30-year-old defenseman who played on all three of the Blackhawks’ recent Stanley Cup teams. He once again led the team in blocked shots (181). Plenty of bumps, bruises and pain come with that job description but despite that, Hjalmarsson hasn’t missed much time. Since the 2012-13 season Hjalmarsson has missed just 12 games, and just four of those have been due to injury (suspected back injury last season).

“Niklas’ contributions to the three Stanley Cup championship teams are well known but his dependability as a teammate, selfless attitude and the way he represented the Chicago Blackhawks on and off the ice are what made him such a beloved member of the organization,” said Chicago Blackhawks Senior Vice President and General Manager Stan Bowman. “He made his debut in Chicago in 2008 and quietly established himself as one of the toughest competitors in franchise history. We wish he and his family continued success.”

Murphy is a four-year NHL veteran who had two goals and 15 assists in 77 games last season with the Coyotes, playing 19:11 per night. Dauphin, 22, has played 32 career games in the NHL over the last two seasons with Arizona, scoring three goals and one assist. Last year, he split time between Arizona and the Tucson Roadrunners of the AHL. He has one year left at $745,000 before going restricted next summer.
The centerpiece of this trade, obviously, is Hjalmarsson vs. Murphy. The Blackhawks are acquiring a player that’s six years younger and cheaper in the long term: Murphy makes $3.8 million against the cap through 2022, while Hjalmarsson makes $4.1 million over the next two seasons before becoming a UFA.

Photo By: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers Trade- Less than an hour after completing the trade above the Coyotes scratched and clawed there way into another deal which most people in the NHL world look at as being bigger than the first deal. The deal gives the Coyotes center Derek Stepan and goalie Antti Raanta from the New York Rangers in exchange for defenseman Anthony DeAngelo and the seventh-overall pick in Friday’s draft.

This second bold move fills two big holes for the Coyotes, giving  the team a reliable top-two center and replacing Smith’s void in the crease.

Stepan has been a model of consistency since breaking into the NHL, putting up 50-plus points in each of the last four seasons, including 55 (17-38) in 81 games last season. The 27-year-old was a fixture on the power play and penalty kill and finished second among Rangers forwards in ice time (18:49) last season.

Raanta has been one of the best backups in the league the last two years. Like Cam Talbot before him, the 28-year-old seems ready to take the reins as a starter. He posted a crisp 2.27 goals-against average and .922 save percentage in 29 games last season after posting similar numbers the year before. Raanta is slated to become a unrestricted free agent next summer.

Photo by David Hahn/Icon Sportswire

Friday’s blockbuster didn’t come cheap for the Coyotes, however.

Anthony DeAngelo, taken 19th overall by the Lightning in 2014, is a highly-skilled defenseman who put up five goals and 14 points in 39 games with the Coyotes last season, his first in the NHL. The 21-year-old was traded at the same time last year when the Lightning shipped him to Arizona for the 37th pick in the 2016 draft. He has two years remaining on his entry-level contract.

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