The Arizona Coyotes are known around the league for having a strong defensive corps and one of them has been having a quietly impressive season after many believed he may be trade bait.
34-year-old blueliner Alex Goligoski was regularly rumored to be on the trading block entering the 2019/20 season, with his $5,475,000 annual cap hit looking to be far too much for a player entering the twilight of his career.
With a fully healthy roster to start the season, Goligoski was seen as a third-pairing option for the team with the top four of Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Jason Demers, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Jakob Chychrun firmly established.
With Hjalmarsson suffering a significant injury, keeping him out for around three months, Goligoski has found his role enlarged and he appears to be flourishing at the responsibility.
The former second-round pick has been a steady offensive presence throughout his career, good for over 35 points until last season’s 27-point effort.
This season, however, he is on pace to annihilate his career-high of 46 points, which he achieved in 2010/11, with his current eight points (one goal, seven assists) in 12 games putting him on track to earn around 55 points in a full 82-game campaign.
While being deployed more often in the offensive zone (55.6%), Goligoski is showing strong possession numbers with a 54.2% Corsi rating - 3.5% higher than his career average to date.
Despite his increased offensive responsibilities, Goligoski is still averaging more than one shot blocked per game with 14 so far and still uses his physicality with the same number of hits.
With Hjalmarsson not likely to return to the ice until mid-to-late December, having Goligoski performing as well as he is helps the Arizona Coyotes continue to perform at a high standard and has seen them start the 2019/20 season in a much stronger position than just 12 months earlier.
A healthy defensive corps that is contributing more offensively was one of the keys to improving Rick Tocchet’s team this campaign and the early signs are extremely positive for a franchise desperate to get back into the post-season for the first time since 2012.
For Goligoski, it helps ease any concerns he may have had before the start of the season about his future in the desert and gives the likes of Tocchet and John Chayka less of a headache when considering what potentially moves could be made to improve the team further down the road.