The free agency signing period begins tomorrow morning. Though the caliber of players is not that strong, the Arizona Coyotes could still make a few moves to improve their lineup.
When scouring the free agent market, the Coyotes should be searching primarily for value. Though the team has room to spend money and the willingness from ownership to do it, the Coyotes should take care to make smart decisions and not overpay too much for diminishing returns.
So with that in mind, let's explore what the Coyotes need, as well as who might be able to fill the role.
Coyotes Needs and Free Agent Targets
Need #1 - Veteran Center
Dylan Strome was the center of attention for Coyotes fans last weekend, primarily because of his potential as the team's #1 center in the future. But Strome's chances of playing in the NHL next year are remote at best, and playing him on the top line would be a surefire mistake.
So instead, the Coyotes would like to bring in a center that could perform competently for a few years while players like Strome and Ryan MacInnis mature into NHL ready players. Free agency would be a perfect stopgap solution while the Coyotes' young forwards develop.
Possible Targets: Brad Richards (Chicago), Antoine Vermette (Chicago), Eric Fehr (Washington)
Need #2 - Right-Handed Defensive Shot
The Coyotes decided to add another veteran defenseman to their corps by trading for Nicklas Grossmann. They may not be done adding defensive players, especially with the decision to not extend a qualifying offer to John Moore.
Both Connor Murphy and Michael Stone are right handed shots, but the Coyotes may want to add another righty to their team for the sake of balance. There are a variety of options, young and old, that could fill that role, though relatively few of them are really strong offensive players.
Possible Targets: Zbynek Michalek (St. Louis), Mike Weaver (Montreal), Tom Gilbert (Montreal), Yannick Weber (Vancouver)
Need #3 - Backup Goaltender
Louis Domingue played respectably well in his first stint in the NHL. But as Mark Visentin is now an unrestricted free agent, the Coyotes will need a netminder to battle with Domingue for the #2 and #3 spot.
As sparse as the goaltending landscape is in the NHL, the Coyotes will likely have most of the leverage in any move, as there are also relatively few open jobs around the league. The Coyotes aren't likely to spend a lot at this position, and any free agent they sign may end up in the American Hockey League anyways if Domingue earns his way back onto the roster.
Possible Targets: Anders Lindback (Buffalo), Ray Emery (Philadelphia), Peter Budaj (Winnipeg)
Need #4 - Depth Forward
As the Coyotes seem prepared to part ways with David Moss, the Coyotes could stand to bolster their depth with solid two-way players. Players like Max Domi and Anthony Duclair - should the make the roster - need to play top six minutes to truly develop. There will be plenty of room for veterans.
In an ideal world, the Coyotes would add veteran forwards that could filter up and down the lineup as injuries or slumps occur. One of the biggest systemic problems of the Coyotes has been forwards playing minutes above their skillset; Arizona needs to address this problem in a way that doesn't overmatch players.
Possible Targets Michael Frolik (Winnipeg), Joel Ward (Washington), Tomas Fleischmann (Anaheim), Daniel Winnik (Pittsburgh), David Booth (Toronto)
Ultimately, the Coyotes may not be all that active on the market this summer, especially if contracts run in the very expensive range very early on. And there are still plenty of teams in salary cap purgatory, so Arizona could stand to make upgrades via trade.
But it seems apparent that Arizona is willing to spend money on players beyond their current restricted free agents. The free agent market is not the place to look to make a splash this summer, but the Coyotes could come away with a couple of good value signings by the time the day is over.