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So, what’s next for the Coyotes Conor Garland?

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An objective analysis of the options for the currently unsigned Coyotes forward. 

NHL: APR 19 Wild at Coyotes Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This offseason is shaping up to be full of movement for several teams around the league.

Rumors have been flying about all the possible star players who could be on a new team come next season. Some of the biggest names rumored to be on the move are Jack Eichel, Seth Jones, Matthew Tkachuk, and Evgeny Kuznetsov.

Fans across the league fantasize about a star player joining their top six and turning their team into a contender. But, much to the dismay of Coyotes fans, some fanbases have entertained what Conor Garland could do for their team.

Before losing hope in Garland’s future in Arizona, consider if this is a move that general manager Bill Armstrong would want to make.

Conor Garland’s Status

If the Coyotes are planning to rebuild in the coming years, there are very few players Armstrong will not contemplate moving.

This means trading Garland is a possibility that Armstrong must evaluate from all angles. At 25 years old, Garland is in a unique position if the team decides to rebuild. He is older than some of the core players, but it seems he is just reaching the peak of his career.

In the 2020-2021 season, he recorded 39 points in 49 games, the same amount as the 2019-2020 season, but in 19 fewer games. In addition, he increased his career-high assist total from 17 to 27 this season. This was especially impressive because 22 of his 27 assists were primary.

He made Coyotes games more exciting because of his nifty moves in the corner and overall gritty playstyle. His hard work earned him several highlight-reel goals. He also converted on 60% of his shootout chances by mastering a few moves to increase his unpredictability.

A Contract

Conor Garland’s contract was one of the best value deals in the entire league. He signed it during the 2018-2019 season, which was before he broke out offensively. The two-year deal carried a cap hit of only $775,000. According to CapFriendly, this cap hit is less than 1% of the team’s cap ceiling. As a result, he is the cheapest cost-per-point player on a standard contract in the league.

Garland is clearly worth more than that, but there are other logistics to consider when agreeing to terms on his next contract. As a restricted free agent, he has the right to file for arbitration if his camp cannot work out a deal with the club.

A player will typically head to arbitration when they are looking to achieve their market value. It is a complicated process where the team and player argue about the fair value of a new contract. The situation is hardly ideal as it often leads to hard feelings between the player and the club.

If the team wishes to avoid arbitration, they should work with the player to establish the terms together.

Garland could opt for a short-term deal until 2023 when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. This would give him control over his destination and salary in a market where COVID-19 is less of a factor. It would also give the team more time to see where things stand in terms of the rebuild.

The Coyotes may want to sign him for longer, but the team must consider his age. It is difficult to determine what Garland’s average annual salary will look like. CapFriendly’s tool for contract comparables shows players with contracts of around four to five million dollars. Craig Morgan has reported in the past that he does not believe that Garland’s camp will be looking for a Clayton Keller-type contract as his next deal.

A Trade

On May 20, Garland’s agent, Peter Cooney, submitted two contract proposals to the club. On June 23, Frank Seravalli reported on the Daily Faceoff how there has been no communication between the camps since. Although the article implies a trade is likely at this point, there has yet to be confirmation of this.

In the NHL, news can change very quickly. A player may reportedly be on the trade block one day, then sign a long-term contract the next day. There is no way to know what Bill Armstrong or Conor Garland are planning.

Garland is an asset that, if traded, would bring a hefty return for a rebuild. However, he may be the type of piece the Coyotes keep as they instead retool other parts of the roster. Teams often prefer to retain proven talent like Garland over prospects or picks that can be hit and miss.

The main issue with keeping Garland is the cap hit, but that is hardly a reason to trade a budding star on a team in need of offense.

Final Thoughts

Despite all the trade talk, it still seems likely that Garland is in a Coyotes uniform come next season.

He has said before that he prefers to stay with the team, and there is still time to negotiate a contract. There are other players on the roster with a high cap hit that Armstrong should consider moving before Garland.

The team has failed to draft well, especially in late rounds. Garland was a steal in round five of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, and it would be a shame to trade a player of his status.

Management must consider how trading Garland would appear to the fanbase. After enduring multiple rebuilds over the last decade, another one would be discouraging for Coyotes fans. They need a reason to keep supporting the team financially, and Garland is a fan favorite.

If the team commits to a rebuild by trading Garland, they are subject to even more backlash from the fans. Ownership cannot exactly afford to lose the support of an already small fan base.