With the Arizona Coyotes trading away Derek Stepan, the need to add another center to the roster has become even more important for the team.
The Coyotes have a few players capable of playing center, with the likes of Christian Dvorak, Nick Schmaltz, Johan Larsson, John Hayden, and, of course, Barrett Hayton, but a number of those listed have been preferred on the wing.
This off-season, the Coyotes have lost three out-and-out centers in Stepan, Brad Richardson, and Carl Soderberg, who recently signed a one-year, $1 million deal with the Chicago Blackhawks, and the team needs to address this lack of real depth before the season gets underway in less than a month’s time.
Christian Dvorak looks set to fully take the reins as the team’s top center, having exceptional face-off numbers (55.3% and 55.1%) over the past two seasons, but depth will be crucial to the Coyotes’ attempts to get back into the playoffs in 2021.
One player that is currently available, and would provide such depth at a very reasonable cost is 33-year-old Derick Brassard.
Brassard has bounced around the league throughout his career, being drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets sixth overall in 2006, before having spells with the New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators, Pittsburgh Penguins, and, most recently, the New York Islanders.
The 2019/20 season saw Brassard register ten goals and 32 total points in 66 games with the Islanders, before going on to have an 18-game run in the post-season, where he added eight points (two goals, six assists), all while averaging 13:42 of ice time in the regular season and just 12:20 in the post-season.
With the Coyotes, Brassard would likely see his ice time elevated, giving him a chance to play meaningful minutes for a team that still has a legitimate chance of making the playoffs in the newly established West Division.
His one-year deal with the Islanders paid him just $1.2 million, which would be more than palatable for the Coyotes - who sit around $3 million under the salary cap before placing Marian Hossa’s $5.275 million on LTIR.
Brassard is still a UFA this close to the start of training camp and will surely be keen to find a home sooner rather than later, with the Coyotes potentially giving him the best opportunity to play a larger role while still having the hope of post-season hockey once the 56-game regular season is concluded.
For the Coyotes, they would add a guy that could potentially battle for a second-line role on the team, has solid face-off numbers on a par with Stepan, if not slightly better, and would have a guy that could potentially provide some offense.
Brassard is only a short-term option, but the team needs players such as him to help get through the next season to see what they have in this current roster, and coaching staff, before GM Bill Armstrong needs to make some serious decisions about the direction of the team’s future.
If Armstrong wants to give Tocchet a legitimate chance at making the post-season and, potentially, keep his job, then adding players such as Brassard could be a low-cost way to do it.
If things go well enough, and all bets are off by the trade deadline, Armstrong would have an even better chance as stockpiling picks to rebuild the Coyotes’ fairly bare cupboard of prospects.