With a number of younger players and expiring UFA contracts, next year's Arizona Coyotes team promises to look very different from last year's. It will certainly be younger and more home grown. But by how much?
The Roster Now
Let's take a look at the Coyotes depth chart as it stands now, including only those Coyotes currently under contract for next season.
|Open||Martin Hanzal||Tobias Rieder|
|Lauri Korpikoski||Kyle Chipchura||Sam Gagner|
|Oliver Ekman-Larsson||Michael Stone|
Now, as bad as that looks, there are a variety of spots that will likely be filled even before July 1st, as Mikkel Boedker, Klas Dahlbeck, and John Moore are all restricted free agents the Coyotes are likely to hold on to.
As for everyone else, it's a lot harder to make a compelling case for the Coyotes to re-sign any of their unrestricted free agents. Mark Arcobello had a very impressive campaign in Sedona Red, but Coyotes' management is already on the record as concerned about his game away from the puck. David Moss would be a cheap contract and a veteran presence on what is likely to be a very young team. But realistically, there aren't strong reasons to retain either of them, let alone the rest of their free agents.
Here's where decisions get tricky. Arizona has two major priorities this offseason: upgrade their center depth and establish a more physical presence on defense. The defensive problem should be relatively easy to solve, as even with Dahlbeck and Moore back into the fold the Coyotes should still have two defensive roster spots open.
Finding a veteran D-man with a physical presence on the blueline should not prove terribly challenging. There are many options hitting free agency this summer, several of whom could be had at inexpensive prices. A player like the Bruins' Adam McQuaid would be both a hard-hitting defenseman as well as a highly coveted third right handed shot for the Coyotes.
The center question is far harder to solve. The Coyotes are almost certainly ready to introduce Max Domi to the NHL, but if his natural position is center, that leaves the Coyotes in a bit of trouble, as Domi is probably too young to be playing first line center minutes in a division that includes the likes of Anze Kopitar, Ryan Getzlaf, and Joe Thornton.
There aren't really many good options for a veteran center on the free agent market, given how important the position has become to winning a Stanley Cup. Mike Fisher of Nashville and Brad Richards of Chicago are likely the two best free agent options, so a trade would probably be in the team's best interest while Domi settles in.
A Revamped Roster
Should the Coyotes re-sign their key RFAs, and make a couple splashes on the market, here's the team they could be icing come September:
|Open||Mike Fisher/Trade||Mikkel Boedker|
|Shane Doan||Martin Hanzal/Max Domi||Sam Gagner|
|Open||Max Domi/Martin Hanzal||Tobias Rieder|
|Lauri Korpikoski||Joe Vitale||Kyle Chipchura|
|Oliver Ekman-Larsson||Michael Stone|
|John Moore||Connor Murphy|
|Klas Dahlbeck||Open||Adam McQuaid|
This lineup would accomplish a few different things. It would first leave spots open for younger players like Anthony Duclair, Brendan Perlini, and Philip Samuelsson to make the team.
It would also allow for current roster players to fill in roles more suitable for their skillsets; Max Domi could split second/third line time with Hanzal to get acclimated to the NHL, Sam Gagner is far more effective on the wing than at center, and Shane Doan should not be playing top line minutes at age 39.
Finally, it would also give the Coyotes enough roster flexibility to let more young players crack the roster next season and the year afterwards by not loading up on too many veteran free agents. The more young talent the team can guide along on their own schedule, the better.
The Arizona Coyotes are in a position where the lineup is more likely to receive tinkering than a major overhaul; there aren't a lot of expensive contracts to jettison and there are enough good players on the brink of NHL ready to make a busy offseason unnecessary. There are still many question marks remaining, but this roster looks like the first steps into a transformation of the Arizona Coyotes.