The Arizona Coyotes have performed as expected at the midway point of the 2021-22 NHL season, as the team currently sits in dead last place in the overall league standings, posting a record of 14-35-4 in 53 games. With the uncertainty of the club’s arena situation with the city of Glendale next season, it appears as if the Coyotes are headed to share a facility with the Arizona State University men’s hockey team until their building project in Tempe gets approved (if at all). This team has been a disaster for a decent number of seasons now, however, GM Bill Armstrong’s plan is only starting to take form. He will have the opportunity to completely reshape this roster in his own image, as the team only has $35 million allocated to players for the 2022-23 season. They will have a whopping twelve unrestricted free agents, as well as five restricted free agents to deal with at the conclusion of this season, several of which could be dealt during this deadline season for draft picks and prospects. Any deals involving draft capital would add to the ridiculous stockpile this team currently has with three first-round picks and five second-rounders in the upcoming 2022 NHL draft. Eight picks in the top 64, including what could potentially be the first selection overall, plus nearly fifty million dollars in cap space this summer is certainly something to be excited about. With all this being said, let’s discuss what pieces the Arizona Coyotes have to offer contenders over the course of the next couple of weeks.
Arguably the biggest name available this deadline season, Jakob Chychrun is a player of much intrigue around the league. At still only twenty-three years of age, Chychrun is on a very team-friendly contract (4.6 million AAV) until the conclusion of the 2024-25 season. This season with the Coyotes, Chychrun has scored three goals and registered twelve assists for fifteen total points in forty-two games, his worst scoring year since his sophomore season in 2017-18. He is a career -4.98 AB player, with only one positive season recorded during his five years in the NHL so far. However, this season, he has the worst AB score of any player in hockey at -19.65, which would decrease his career AB to -7.43 if his midseason score holds. Despite these abysmal AB numbers, we believe Jakob Chychrun is an elite hockey player that would thrive in a stable environment on a better team. Whether that team is the Los Angeles Kings, who are ahead of schedule in their rebuild, the Boston Bruins, who are the best AB organization in hockey according to our recent study, or the New York Rangers, who have quickly become one of the league’s top teams this season, Chychrun needs to get out of Arizona. He registered his one positive AB season in 2019-20 where the Coyotes won a playoff series in the bubble behind excellent goaltending from Darcy Kuemper, Antti Raanta, and Adin Hill, perhaps on a contending team his results would be different. Yes, this is the same theory that many people believed about Rasmus Ristolainen in Buffalo (not us). However, when we look at the first five seasons of AB performance from Ristolainen compared to Chychrun, Ristolainen had an average AB of -11.09 to Chychrun’s -4.98, a difference of 6.11. It’s still a massive risk for teams to be taking in our opinion, given that the rumored asking price according to insiders is multiple first-round picks, a top prospect, and young NHL players. This is a trade we personally don’t think gets done this deadline season, as we think it’s more of a summer blockbuster. This is the player we will be looking out for most over the next couple of weeks, as we’re sure the rest of the hockey world will as well.
Phil Kessel is another player we believe would thrive in a place other than Arizona, as it’s already happened. Before his stint with the Coyotes, Kessel won back-to-back Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins and nearly won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2016 with ten goals and twelve assists for twenty-two points in twenty-four playoff games en route to Pittsburgh’s first Stanley Cup since 2008-09. Kessel continued at that scoring pace in the team’s title defense the following season with twenty-three points (eight goals with fifteen assists) in twenty-five games in another championship effort. In ninety-six total playoff games, Kessel has thirty-four goals with forty-seven assists for eighty-one total points (0.84 PPG), which should catch the eye of this season’s championship hopefuls. In fifty-three regular-season games with the Arizona Coyotes this season, he has scored only six goals (the lowest goal-scoring pace of his hall-of-fame career) with twenty-seven assists for thirty-three points. In fact, his three seasons in Arizona have been the 2nd, 4th, and 5th lowest scoring seasons of Phil Kessel’s career with a combined point total of 114. We believe, on a better team, with better linemates and structure, that Phil Kessel can still provide elite offensive production, even at age thirty-four. AB-wise, he is a -4.19 career AB player over his fourteen years of data including four consecutive negative individual seasons. Kessel has only registered positive AB scores in three of those fourteen seasons, however, his midseason score of -9.76 is actually his best score since 2017-18. Any Kessel trade would most likely involve salary retention, as he has a cap hit of 6.8 million for the remainder of this season. According to multiple insiders, the price for Kessel is a third-round pick at 50% salary retained, and we would be surprised if there wasn’t a good amount of interest among contenders over the next few weeks.
One of the players who has immensely benefited by playing on this Arizona Coyotes team is Shayne Gostisbehere, who is having a big bounce-back 2021-22 campaign. Averaging just over twenty-two minutes a game, Gostisbehere has scored nine goals (tied for 3rd highest goal-scoring season of his career) with twenty-two assists for thirty-one points in fifty-three games. This is his highest point total since 2018-19 in which he played twenty-five more games. Gostisbehere also has nine points on Arizona’s top power-play unit, not bad for someone they were paid a 2nd and 7th round pick to take. AB-wise, Gostisbehere’s midseason score of -4.31 is the best of any Coyotes defenseman this season, and among the better scores of any player on the team in general. However, this -4.31 score would be his worst since 2018-19, and he has only registered two individual positive scores in his six-year NHL career. With that being said, although he has one season remaining at 4.5 million after this one, if the price for Gostisbehere is a couple of lower-round draft picks, we could see teams taking a chance on him during this deadline season. However, we believe there is a great fit here in Arizona if he isn’t traded, and we’re looking forward to seeing what he does the remainder of the season.
We expect the next several weeks to be very interesting for the future of the Arizona Coyotes, as we learn more about their arena situation and the moves they decide to make this trade deadline. We think Bill Armstrong and his staff have a tremendous opportunity to build a competitive team in Arizona with their large stockpile of draft picks and endless amounts of cap space. We also wouldn’t be surprised to see them continue to acquire bad contracts in exchange for future assets as they’ve done in the past given their cap situation. Much more to come, as these upcoming weeks could be some of the biggest in Coyotes history.