Poised to miss the NHL playoffs for the fourth consecutive season, some changes could be coming to the Arizona Coyotes. The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reports there's talk the Coyotes slow rebuild doesn't bode well for GM Don Maloney. Garrioch claims the belief is somebody in the ownership group wants to speed things up, noting the club will have money this summer to invest in additions through trades and free agency.
It's unfair, however, to blame Maloney for the pace of the rebuild. A change in ownership, uncertainty over the Coyotes future in Arizona and a payroll well below the league's salary-cap ceiling hampered his efforts. Indeed, he's done a good job restocking the roster with promising youth via trades and the draft. It seems unlikely that ownership will ditch him now.
With just over $33 million invested in salary-cap payroll for 2016-17, the Coyotes have plenty of cap space to bring back affordable restricted free agents such as goaltender Louis Domingue, right winger Tobias Rieder and defensemen Michael Stone, Connor Murphy and Klas Dahlbeck. There's also room to re-sign aging captain Shane Doan for another season.
Depending on how much ownership is willing to invest in next season's payroll, management should have sufficient room to pursue one or two quality veterans in this summer's deep pool of unrestricted free agents. They could also target cap-strapped teams by dangling prospects or draft picks.
If the Coyotes fail to win this year's draft lottery, recent speculation suggested they might part with star defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson to acquire that pick and use it to select top prospect and Arizona native Auston Matthews. However, the Arizona Republic's Sarah McLellan reports Maloney and team CEO Anthony LeBlanc quickly shot down that rumor during a recent town hall with Coyotes fans. “That will never happen,” said Maloney, while LeBlanc insisted Ekman-Larsson won't be dealt for a draft pick.
That shouldn't come as a surprise. Even if the Coyotes could acquire this year's first-overall pick by trading Ekman-Larsson, it would take years to replace his absence from their blueline. Earlier in the week, Sportsnet's Mark Spector dismissed the notion that the Coyotes would make that move.
In fact, it will be difficult for the Coyotes to pry away that pick from whoever wins the draft lottery. Spector lists the Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets, Columbus Blue Jackets, Vancouver Canucks, Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers as those with a good shot of winning that selection. Of those clubs, he believes only the Oilers would be willing to move it. Of course, they'll want Ekman-Larsson, and we already know where the Coyotes stand on that notion.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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