GLENDALE, Ariz. — Coyotes general manager Don Maloney is taking a wait-and-see approach with his team ahead of the NHL’s Feb. 29 trade deadline (1 p.m., Arizona time). The Coyotes (60 points) are five points off the Western Conference wild-card pace, but they own four games in hand on wild-card leader Colorado (66 points), a game in hand on the No. 2 wild card team, Nashville (65 points), and a game in hand on No. 9 Minnesota (64 points).
That makes the team’s five-game road trip through Washington (Monday), Tampa (Tuesday), Florida (Thursday), Philadelphia (Saturday) and Pittsburgh (Monday) a season-defining stretch.
“What I’ve told a lot of teams is ‘let’s talk after the Washington game (on Monday),'” Maloney said. “‘Let’s see where we are after that and we can have another conversation.'”
Maloney said earlier in the week that he didn’t expect “a mass exodus like last year” when the Coyotes shipped out defenseman Keith Yandle, center Antoine Vermette and defenseman Zbynek Michalek at the deadline, but the Coyotes could move a piece or two depending on their situation and the circumstances of those players’ contracts. Maloney also said there are some bigger deals being discussed, without providing specifics.
Here is a look at eight players who might garner some interest from teams at the deadline. To be clear, not all of these players have been mentioned in trade rumors, and it’s unlikely all are even on the block. Some are just players who make sense for one reason or another.
RW Mikkel Boedker
Why it could happen: Boedker can become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and has been through three previous contract negotiations before that didn’t go his way. An NHL source said the Coyotes have offered Boedker a deal for more than $5 million per year with considerable term — an offer that would seem more than fair given the fact that Boedker has just one goal and seven assists in 21 games since the All-Star break, and he has yet to reach the 20-goal plateau in any season of his career.
If Boedker’s agent, Jarrett Bousquet isn’t satisfied with the Coyotes’ offer, it may signal that he simply wants to test the free-agent market — a logical move for a player who is a little more than four months away from becoming a free agent. If the Coyotes don’t think they can sign Boedker, it makes sense to trade him rather than risk losing him for nothing in July. If that happens, Maloney will likely wait until the last minute when contenders feel the pressure of making a move to keep up with other teams and are therefore willing to offer a little more than they are right now.
Why it won’t happen: It’s impossible to tell what teams will do in the heat of a Stanley Cup chase, but Boedker’s representation may not find the free-agent market to be as lucrative as he was hoping. Boedker’s numbers and current slump are one reason for his camp to be concerned, but there is also last season’s free-agent market to serve as a cautionary tale. A number of free agents didn’t cash in as expected (see Matt Belesky) due to a marginally rising cap and multiple teams bumping up against that cap.
Not much cap inflation is expected due to the struggling Canadian dollar (0.726 exchange rate as of Sunday). Maybe Boedker will blink at the last minute, realizing that his good friend Oliver Ekman-Larsson sits next to him in the locker room, a pair of talented offensive centers are on the way next season in prospects Dylan Strome and Christian Dvorak and he might just be leaving his best offer on the table if he walks away from the Coyotes’ bid.D Nicklas Grossmann
Why it could happen: Grossman will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and he could help teams looking for a third-pairing crease clearer and penalty-killing defenseman. Grossmann has experience and poise in those situations and is the consummate locker room presence. Teams would have to be willing to pay the prorated portion of his $3 million salary.
Why it won’t happen: Coyotes coach Dave Tippett likes Grossmann’s presence as a mentor for the younger players, even though he has been a healthy scratch for five of the last eight games. Grossmann’s lack of puck-moving skills and low possession numbers could make teams hesitant to add a player with limited value.
C Martin Hanzal
Why it could happen: Hanzal has one more year left on a reasonable deal that pays him $3.5 million next season. Hanzal has enormous value when he’s healthy. He wins 55.9 percent of his faceoffs, he creates net presence on the power play and space for his wings, and he often matches up with opponents’ top centers. He would be a terrific addition for a contender.
Why it won’t happen: Even when they added three centers in the offseason, the Coyotes still entered the season short on skill at the most vital forward position. There is no telling what Strome and Dvorak will bring next season — or even if both will make the team. It would be unwise to lose an effective player at such an important position, even if injuries generally cost him an average of nearly one-quarter of a season. Hanzal would seem to be a better candidate for next season’s trade deadline.
C Antoine Vermette
Why it could happen: Vermette has some value because of his ability to win faceoffs, his sound defensive game and his experience winning a Stanley Cup last year with Chicago.
Why it won’t happen: Vermette has had a subpar season with just 10 goals and 23 points and likely carries far less trade value than last season, particularly with one more season left on a deal that will pay him $3.75 million next year. More importantly, he has a no-move clause that protects him against trades. Vermette has no desire to leave Arizona again, as he did last year at the deadline when he went to Chicago.
C Boyd Gordon
Why it could happen: Gordon has value as a premier faceoff man and an experienced veteran whose shot-blocking skills (3.42 per 60 minutes) embody the sort of sacrifice required in the postseason.
Why it won’t happen: His prorated $3 million salary might scare teams off when they ponder the value of a fourth-line center with limited foot speed.D Zbynek Michalek
Why it could happen: Numerous teams are looking for depth on their blue line for the playoff push. Michalek has the added advantages of experience and a right-handed shot. Michalek leads the team in blocked shots per 60 minutes (6.24).
Why it won’t happen: Michalek is signed through next season and will make $3.2 million in 2016-17. That’s probably too much for a lot of teams to spend for a 33-year-old third-pairing defenseman with a history of hip issues and a lot of mileage on his body.
C Brad Richardson
Why it could happen: Richardson is a strong two-way center with speed, grit and a good contract that will pay him $2.25 million over each of the next two seasons. If teams want to add a player that is more than a rental, Richardson would be an attractive option in the midst of what has been an underrated season.
Why it won’t happen: The Coyotes like Richardson’s game and they also like his contract. He has meshed well with linemates Shane Doan and Jordan Martinook. Why break up a good thing? We all know Doan is coming back next season, right?
D Michael Stone
Why it could happen: Again, teams are desperate for help on the blue line and Stone is a young player with an expiring contract, though he’ll be a restricted free agent, giving teams options. His big, right-handed shot makes him all the more attractive and he has made great strides in the other areas of his game recently.
Why it won’t happen: Why in the world would the Coyotes give up on a young, homegrown defenseman — especially a right-handed shooter — when they are already lacking viable second-pairing options? They control the cards since Stone will only be a restricted free agent this summer. The only way this would happen is if Stone were part of a bigger trade that also brought a defenseman in return.
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