There is only one big glaring problem for the Arizona Coyotes this year with the Expansion Draft: how will they solve the seven skaters signed problem?
Sarah Hall, Managing Editor
Sign the UFAs and RFAs they want to keep before June 17th when the draft starts. The only other option for the team is to have the Golden Knights talk to their UFA/RFAs and have them either offer sheet an RFA or sign a UFA. Both are possible, but I don’t think McPhee is going to trade out valuable draft picks for an RFA offer sheet. The Coyotes have to protect 7 Forwards/3 Defenseman or 8 skaters come June 17th and John Chayka will find a way to do it, but we could be seeing some strange extensions and signings in the coming weeks.
Jason Byun, Copy Editor
The big issue with only having seven skaters signed for next year is that the Coyotes have to expose two of their three forwards from that group. I’d imagine that the Coyotes will be working to re-sign a forward in the coming weeks to expose (similar to what the Toronto Maple Leafs recently did with re-signing Ben Smith). They could even trade for a forward with term left on his deal in the offseason to expose him. Either way, there are many ways to go about this. I’m less worried about the RFAs since I would protect the more valuable ones (like Anthony Duclair and Jordan Martinook, and possibly even Alex Burmistrov).
The thing about RFAs is that Vegas can bypass offer sheets and sign RFAs directly without giving draft pick compensation in return, as long as they do it in the exclusive window they have to sign free agents. If the team doesn’t sign Duclair and leaves him unprotected, there’s a real chance he could just sign in Vegas while the Coyotes lose him for nothing. My protected list as of right now would be: Duclair, Martinook, Tobias Rieder, and Alex Burmistrov at forward, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Alex Goligoski, Connor Murphy, and Kevin Connauton at defense, and Mike Smith.
Brandon Sparks, Copy Editor
Once John Chayka decides which of the RFAs and UFAs he wants back next year, this issue will disappear. As mentioned above, we may also see some fairly “insignificant” trades transpire over the next few weeks, as this may be a cheaper option than offering McPhee a pick to not select a player. Speaking of UFAs, the biggest question mark to me is Radim Vrbata: do we sign him and protect him, talk to him about returning but refrain from signing him until after the draft (and perhaps talking him out of signing with Vegas if he is selected), or do we let him walk? My guess is we take the second route and that Vrbata will be more than willing to comply, as he’s always been eager to benefit the team in any way he can.
I think the team will look at a lot of those fringe NHL/AHL people who are currently pending UFA’s like Chris Mueller, who had an outstanding season in Tucson, Jeremy Morin, and Tyler Gaudet. Signing those guys back, just to expose in the draft, then option them to Tucson again as needed would solve the problem through a rather inexpensive route.
Jessica Meyer, Social Media Manager
This is probably the easiest and most clear cut out of all the questions. Like everyone has said above, once John Chayka decides which FAs the team needs and signs them and then extends whoever he feels needs to be, this problem goes out the window. I doubt he’ll make any deals with Vegas over picks and the FAs unless Vegas desperately wants someone out of our crop, but there’s a large pool of possibilities out there that would be easier for Vegas to acquire. Until the list comes out, Chayka and crew will certainly be busy with making all kinds of moves to figure out the best plan.
Rose, Contributor and Researcher
The must-protects for the Coyotes are Anthony Duclair, Tobias Rieder, Jordan Martinook, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Alex Goligoski, everyone else is up in the air. John Chayka seems to like flexibility so it’s unlikely that the UFAs, like Radim Vrbata, will be re-signed until after the expansion draft unless they want to expose them. He’ll probably hold those extra spots open for possible trades until he knows for sure they won’t happen. Once the wheeling and dealing is done, he’ll sign the players he wants to keep, protect them and, if necessary, sign some players for the purpose of exposing them.
Taylor Clark, Contributor
The Coyotes have some loose ends, Tie those up and it should be fine. Sign Burmistrov. Seriously consider re-signing Chris Mueller - not only is he an asset to Tucson, but I’d honestly like to see him in the NHL. Also re-sign Tyler Guadet and RFAs Duclair, and Martinook.
What do you think the Coyotes should do?