In the past we’ve looked at the NHL players set to be restricted free agents after next season. But the Arizona Coyotes will also be looking at players in the lower leagues, some of whom could be making the jump to the NHL in the near future. It’s tougher to predict what these players will need to do to get a contract and when, if ever, they will end up making the leap to the NHL. We are going to start by looking at the soon to be unrestricted free agents, all of whom have both NHL and AHL experience.
NHL - 200 Games, 24-40-64
AHL - 104 Games, 19-72-91
Bennett signed with the team this past offseason to a one-year, two-way deal. He was initially set to spend last season in KHL, but was limited to just five games. The former first round pick hasn’t spent the majority of a season in the NHL since the 2016-17 season and he seems like a good candidate for getting called up for injuries.
NHL - 167 Games, 6-16-22
AHL - 341 Games, 93-137-230
Originally drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010, Chaput was acquired by the Coyotes in exchange for Jordan Weal this past February. With Christian Dvorak set to come back from injuries the Coyotes didn’t need Weal, and they figured that Chaput could help keep the Tucson Roadrunners in the playoff hunt. And although the Roadrunners didn’t make the playoffs this last season, Chaput would notch 16 points in 16 games for the Roadrunners.
NHL - 19 Games, 0-0-0
AHL - 271 Games, 27-115-142
Russo was originally drafted by the New York Islanders in 2011 although he would eventually sign a two-year deal with the Detroit Red Wings. The Coyotes would acquire Russo for a conditional seventh-round pick and he would spend the entire season with the Roadrunners. His 39 points matched a career high and he was third on the team in points. As a defenseman Russo seems like a long shot to play for the Coyotes next season, but with the team acquiring Aaron Ness he won’t be the only defenseman generating offense in Tuscon next season.
Of the three pending unrestricted free agents in Tucson Chaput or Bennett could make the team at training camp or be an injury call up. Russo was solid last season, but the team has some much defensive depth and Kyle Capobianco seems to be ahead of Russo. These players are in the unenviable position of being between the NHL and AHL, and a good season no matter where they end up could earn them a shot in the NHL after next season. Whether in Tucson or in Glendale these players are likely to give it their all, because they all have something to prove.