Coyotes Busy Offseason
Arizona Coyotes general manager John Chayka has had himself quite the busy offseason. From big trades to small free-agent signings, there are a lot of new faces to welcome to the desert, as well as to say goodbye to. Before getting into that, here’s everyone that he has extended: Jordan Oesterle, Nick Schmaltz, Lawson Crouse, Ilya Lyubushkin, Michael Bunting, and Robbie Russo. All talented players that deserved to be extended and fill their individual roles are on the team. Now for the players that were additions and subtractions.
Nick Cousins was always a confusing player to keep on the roster last season for me. He is a bottom-six forward that spent significant time on the fourth line last season. Throughout the season, Cousins was repeatedly used as a utility player. Being thrown on multiple lines as the team suffered injuries, including appearances on the first line multiple times. Despite his utility, I remained confused as to his importance on the team. Being a utility player, it always confused me why he was playing over any of the players in Tucson that could easily fill the same exact role. Going into this offseason, I was honestly hoping he wouldn’t be offered an extension. To be fair, Cousins isn’t a bad player, nor did he have a bad season. Playing in 81 games, and scoring seven goals, and 20 assists for 27 points. He signed with the Montreal Canadiens.
Richard Panik is a player I’ll fully admit I never liked. He was acquired in the trade for Anthony Duclair. My biggest problem comes from the fact that Panik was never above an average player. His cap his was more than double that of Duclair’s, but his production was slightly above that. It goes back to me seeing a guy that anyone of our minor league players could’ve easily filled, clearing cap space for another, better player. Like Cousins, Panik is not a bad player. Last season he recorded 14 goals, and 19 assists, for 33 points, in 75 games. Not bad production for a top-nine guy. Once again I’m brought to the mindset that he could be easily replaced by anyone from the minors. Anyone like Conor Garland, who in 38 fewer games played, put up 15 fewer points. Panik signed with the Washington Capitals for four years.
To start last season, I didn’t much care for Mario Kempe. The reason being was simple, he just wasn’t anything above decent. However, as the season went on, I feel he improved his overall game and I became glad to have him on the team. That being said, I’m not gonna miss him, or his mediocre production. In 53 games, scoring four goals, and five assists for only a meager nine points. Basically, everything I said about Cousins earlier, applies to Kempe. Only Kempe is just an average bottom-six forward. To his credit, he has speed and utilizes it well. So well in fact, that he quickly made his way to Los Angeles to play with his brother.
Josh Archibald is a good two-way bottom-six forward. I thought he brought tremendous value for his cap hit and worked hard every night. He played in 68 games and scored 12 goals, and ten assists, for 22 points. A career-high in all four categories. He’s just a good role player with a beyond reasonable cap hit. Hopefully, he gets a contract to come back, but as of now, he is a member of the Edmonton Oilers.
Kevin Connauton was a decent, physical depth defenseman. He had his most productive season as a Coyote in 2017-18, where he scored 11 goals, and 10 assists for 21 points. Last season he reverted to his usual form, decent defense with a huge lack of production. He scored just eight points last season. I’m personally not shocked that he was traded away this offseason to Colorado in exchange for Carl Soderberg.
Finally, Alex Galchenyuk. In my opinion, the story of Galchenyuk is a Greek tragedy. Being mishandled by the Canadians, he was traded to the Coyotes last offseason, in exchange for Max Domi. When the trade went down, I was personally underwhelmed. Alex Galchenyuk is a better all-around player than Domi in my opinion, but not head and shoulders above Domi. Most Coyotes fans were excited to have a 30 goal scorer join the team. I’ll repeat the same thing I said when the trade originally went down. He scored 30 goals one time in his career and going into last season, there were two full seasons between his thirty goal campaign and his current self.
That being said, I really liked Galchenyuk last season. He played hard and paired really well with Conor Garland. Unfortunately, no matter how he was playing, he would be shuffled from line to line all season after his return from injury. Not giving him a chance to build or maintain momentum, just like in Montreal before. Despite that, Galchenyuk still had a productive season, scoring 19 goals, 22 assists, and 41 points in 71 games.
It was obvious to the naked eye that the Coyotes didn’t feel he fit in their system because on June 29, 2019, Galchenyuk was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins alongside Pierre-Oliver Joseph in exchange for Phil Kessel. While I was a huge fan of Galchenyuk, there really wasn’t a better segue into the next player if I tried.
Acquired in the trade mentioned above, I really don’t have much to say about Phil. At least that I haven’t said before. Kessel is an elite scorer, and the piece that turns Arizona into a playoff team overnight. He’s a 20-30 goal scorer, and a borderline point per game guy. He should help to establish a winning culture in the locker room, being a two time Stanley Cup champion and all.
Carl Soderberg was acquired in exchange for defenseman Kevin Connauton. A great trade when comparing what was lost, versus what was gained. Connauton is a decent depth defenseman after all. With the amount of talented defenseman in the Coyotes system, not something they needed. Soderberg is coming off of his first career 20 goal season. Scoring 23 goals, and 26 assists, for 49 points. He played in every game last season, in fact, he’s only missed 16 games in the last six seasons. Another fun fact, Soderberg would’ve been the Coyotes leading scorer last season.
Going into this offseason, John Chayka needed to address Arizona’s goal-scoring woes. Chayka added two 20 goal scorers while leaving plenty of roster spaces open for players within their system. Chayka also did the one thing that as a long-time Coyotes fan, I never thought would happen. He added an elite talent in Kessel and spent almost all the way to the salary cap. He trimmed the fat, retained the right players, and added two great players. Plus he brought back the great Andy Miele, so Arizona is gonna lift the Cup.