General Manager John Chayka and the Arizona Coyotes have used salary cap space as an asset more aggressively than any other NHL team. They did so again early this morning.
ARIZ/FLA working on a deal that will send David Bolland and Lawson Crouse to the Coyotes for a second and third pick...— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) August 25, 2016
If Crouse doesn't play in Arizona this season, the 2nd round pick becomes a 3rd round pick.— Craig Custance (@CraigCustance) August 25, 2016
This move featured two of the most polarizing players in the stats vs. non-stats debate. Bolland signed a five-year, $25 million contract with the Panthers in 2014 after winning the Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2013. Bolland has never lived up to that contract however, as he recorded just seven goals and twenty-one assists over two seasons. He was even briefly sent to the AHL in 2015 for a "confidence boost".
Injury issues limited Bolland to only 25 games in 2015-16, so it remains to be seen what exactly the plan is for Bolland in Arizona. And it does not sound like that's going to change any time soon.
Coyotes GM John Chayka said his understanding is Dave Bolland is injured for the foreseeable future & won't be ready to play any time soon.— Craig Morgan (@craigsmorgan) August 25, 2016
Antoine Vermette’s departure would seemingly create room down the middle, but Christian Dvorak and Dylan Strome would be more logical replacements, and Bolland doesn’t represent much of an improvement over Vermette, at least as far as the numbers are concerned.
Lawson Crouse on the other hand polarized the hockey community when it came to drafting criteria. On the one hand, Crouse was responsible for more of his team’s scoring in his draft year than any other OHL player besides Connor McDavid, and he played an absurd amount of minutes. Clearly, he’s a workhorse.
But that offensive production in raw numbers was underwhelming; he had just 29 goals and 22 assists in 56 games played. Those are good numbers, but consider that 30th overall pick Nick Merkley had 20 goals and 70 assists in his draft year.
It is important to remember however that the debate over Crouse was never about whether he could play in the NHL. Both sides agree that Crouse has legitimate NHL talent. The question was always whether or not he could play at a level worth using a high first round selection on, which the Panthers did at 11th overall.
This past season, Crouse recorded 23 goals and 39 assists for the Kingston Frontenacs in 49 games played. He also cut down his penalty minutes from 70 to 56, a similarly encouraging sign.
But even if Crouse never lives up to being an 11th overall pick, he could very easily become a competent middle-six winger with size and solid two-way skills. And for the price the Coyotes paid for him, Crouse basically becomes an extra second or third round draft choice. That’s solid potential for a pick at that level.
The biggest question mark for the Coyotes is what becomes of David Bolland. But once again, John Chayka has demonstrated that he will use Arizona’s salary cap space as an asset to acquire more young players. So far, he’s added Crouse and Jakob Chychrun in that fashion to an already deep prospect pool.
Where Arizona slots in all of its veteran players will be the story to follow as training camp approaches. Stay tuned.