The Arizona Coyotes were one of the season’s best stories through the first half. After a 29th-place finish in 2014-15, it was believed the Coyotes were destined for a basement finish again this season. Instead, the youthful skill in Arizona carried the Coyotes to a playoff spot as teams broke away for the all-star break.
But since mid-January, things haven’t looked so great in Arizona. While the Coyotes held a playoff spot, they were quickly losing ground in the Pacific and the slide isn’t showing any signs of stopping in Arizona. Coach Dave Tippett’s club has only won two of their past 10 outings, have a league-worst minus-14 goal differential since Jan. 14 and are beginning to look like a team that’s going to be on the outside looking in come playoff time.
Considering the Coyotes’ play and position in the standings, it puts GM Don Maloney in a tough spot. The trade deadline is three weeks away and the Coyotes will have to decide whether or not they want to sell off pending free agents, of which Arizona has eight. The most interesting of all the pending unrestricted free agents, though, is Mikkel Boedker, and he could be a hot commodity come deadline day.
Boedker, 26, signed a one-year deal in the off-season, but he’s never been able to find a long-term solution with the Coyotes. Since the end of his three-year, entry-level deal in 2010-11, Boedker has inked a two-year, $2.2-million deal, two-year, $5.1-million deal and he only re-upped on a one-year, $3.75-million pact this past off-season. There’s little doubt the Coyotes would love to have Boedker back, especially as he’s second in scoring in Arizona with 13 goals and 35 points in 52 games. The reality, though, is the Coyotes could risk losing him for nothing if they hang onto him through the deadline.
If Boedker hits the open market in the off-season, he could find himself getting a big money deal from any of the league’s 29 other clubs, and the Coyotes, a budget team that has to give consideration to its young players who will need deals in a few years’ time, may not be able to match. According to the Arizona Sports’ Craig Morgan, Boedker would sign if the Coyotes made him the offer he was looking for, but the two sides haven’t been able to find that middle-ground yet, and that may be a sign of what’s to come.
Losing Boedker would no doubt be a blow to a Coyotes team that doesn’t have much in the way of homegrown talent. In fact, if Maloney decided to or had no other option than to ship out Boedker, the franchise would lose one of only eight homegrown roster players and one of only five players currently on the roster the franchise drafted pre-2010. But while dealing Boedker isn’t preferred, it may not actually be the worst-case scenario at the deadline.
Last season, Maloney was able to flip Antoine Vermette, Keith Yandle, Chris Summers and Zbynek Michalek into Maxim Letunov, Anthony Duclair, Klas Dahlbeck, one second-round and two first-round picks. That’s a great haul, and with a reputation of bringing back that type of return, Boedker could bring back a considerable return from a playoff team looking for some scoring punch.
Beyond the potential return, though, there’s reason to wonder if Boedker is really long for Arizona as it is.
Though he’s finally hitting his stride, the future of the team doesn’t so much center on Boedker as it does Duclair, Max Domi, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and prospects Dylan Strome, Brendan Perlini and Christian Dvorak. With the potential for the lineup to be so young and so talented in as few as two or three seasons, Boedker may become expendable in the next few years anyway.
That’s not to say Maloney won’t make an attempt at inking Boedker — there’s no reason to not at least try to lock him up — but time is ticking for the Coyotes and Boedker to come to terms on an extension. And if they can’t find common ground before the month ends, Maloney’s best move might be to say goodbye to Boedker and build for a future without him.