With the Arizona Coyotes in the No. 3 spot in the NHL draft after Saturday night's Draft Lottery, it's time for the team to start weighing its options. While the draft order ahead of them is fairly obvious with Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel as the top two respective selections, the situation becomes much more complex for the Coyotes with the third pick.
According to a source familiar with the team, defenseman Noah Hanifin was the third name on the Coyotes' prospect rankings list as late as February, although that may have changed in the last couple months. Arizona could always elect to go with forward Dylan Strome, who was McDavid's teammate for the Erie Otters in the OHL this season. Strome scored 129 points (45 goals, 84 assists) in 68 games.
There's also the distant possibility the Coyotes trade their pick. Because of the uncertainty between the Nos. 3-5 ranked prospects, the same player they would have otherwise drafted may still be available after trading down to a nearby team.
Coyotes general manager Don Maloney told Craig Morgan of Fox Sports Arizona that if the team does pick third, they "absolutely know who we are taking," but also mentioned he expects to field calls from teams interested in trading up.
The Toronto Maple Leafs, more than any other team, feel like a logical fit should the Coyotes want to do some maneuvering with the draft order. Not only have the Leafs been trying to shed defenseman Dion Phaneuf for some time, but they've also been reported in having interest in Coyotes assistant general manager Sean Burke, as well as possibly even Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett.
Now, under the NHL's current Collective Bargaining Agreement, executives and coaches cannot be traded for players, but the teams could work out separate trades to make it work. For example, if Toronto—who holds the No. 4 pick in this year's draft—wanted Burke or Tippett, a reasonable return could be a second round pick in 2016.
Moreover, that transaction could be coupled with a trade swapping the third and fourth pick, as well as the Coyotes sending a player like Lauri Korpikoski to the Maple Leafs for Phaneuf and a prospect or a later pick in the draft. Toronto could also pick up parts of Phaneuf's contract.
Under a scenario like this one, if the team did value Hanifin at No. 3, the Coyotes would still likely get the Boston College defenseman at No. 4—as all indications are that Toronto is after a high-end forward like Strome. Thus, Arizona gets the same player it would have gotten before—as well as an established defenseman in Phaneuf (or another established player of similar value) and the possibility of a prospect, a draft pick and potentially even financial compensation.
One source points out that the Philadelphia Flyers and San Jose Sharks also have top 10 picks and are in need of a head coach. Perhaps the thought of Dave Tippett could trigger a similar trade to the one we drew up with the Maple Leafs.
One thing everyone in the Coyotes organization seems to agree on is that the team expects to contend for a playoff position in 2015-16. Of course, that's a lofty claim from a team that finished with just 56 points this season, but it's also all the more reason the Coyotes might consider a larger-scale deal to increase the number of assets coming back.
As far as the draft itself is concerned, the addition of Hanifin would give Oliver Ekman-Larsson a legitimate partner on the Coyotes' top defensive pair, and would help beef up a solid contingent that also includes Connor Murphy and Klas Dahlbeck.
At any rate, the Coyotes are still primed to get a bright prospect out of this draft—and it's important to remember the team still has possession of the Chicago Blackhawks first-round selection, wherever it may fall.
However, it's important now for the team to consider its options with such a flexible draft outlook. If there's heavy interest from teams in regard to front office or coaching personnel, it would be unwise for the Coyotes not to listen.