If you told fans last season that, in less than a year, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Conor Garland, Darcy Kuemper, and Christian Dvorak would no longer be on the team, they might not have believed you.
However, General Manager Bill Armstrong made it very clear that he would not hesitate to trade a major player if the right price was attached. So by the time Dvorak was traded on Saturday, few Coyotes fans were surprised at the development.
PLAYERS TRADED:— Mike Gould (@miketgould) September 4, 2021
After this move, the Coyotes are expected to be nearly done making changes to the roster. Phil Kessel is the only player who has not yet been moved mentioned in trade talks. The four major players who were traded simply did not fit the timeline of Armstrong’s rebuild. However, they still deserve a farewell to highlight some of their memorable moments as Coyotes.
Despite his long career in Arizona, Ekman-Larsson may have been the player fans were least sad to see go. Although the situation became strained towards the end, Ekman-Larsson contributed a lot to the franchise.
The Phoenix Coyotes drafted Oliver Ekman-Larsson 6th overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. He was an impressive offensive defenseman who led the team in points in the 2014-2015 season and the 2015-2016 season.
Although he never won the Norris Trophy, he holds most of the franchise records for defensive stats. He has played more games, scored more goals, and totaled more points than any other Coyotes defenseman.
After signing an eight-year contract with an $8.25 million AAV in 2018, the public perception changed when his offensive production dipped, and he started struggling defensively. The negative public percetion was amplified after he was named captain in 2018, but he could never live up to the legacy of fan-favorite Shane Doan.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson, acquired by VAN, is on arguably the worst contract in the entire league. He has been absolutely terrible for the past three seasons and is getting paid like a #1 for the next six seasons. #Canucks pic.twitter.com/4nmwFV0a8t— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) July 23, 2021
He still played 11 seasons for the Coyotes, which were filled with controversies over management and the arena. It has not exactly been the ideal situation, but Ekman-Larsson always stressed being happy in Arizona. He did many great things for the community off the ice as well.
He may not be the defenseman he used to be, but perhaps a new situation will allow him to have a bounce back season.
Coyotes fans were upset to see pending RFA Conor Garland added to the Ekman-Larsson deal as a sweetener. Since being drafted in the 5th round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Garland has played with a chip on his shoulder and made himself a fan favorite.
His career is a prime example of what the Coyotes hope to do with future players. He was a steal in the fifth round, and he spent two seasons developing in Tucson before getting his chance. He found his role in the lineup by repeatedly getting to the net to produce offense.
This play allowed him to score 22 goals in his first full season with the team. However, he still wanted to improve, and last season he focused more on the playmaking side of the game. He totaled 39 points which were the same as the previous season, but in the 2019-2020 season, he played 19 more games.
He has scored many nifty goals, including one off the face in 2019. That happened because he was trying to get up after being cross-checked into the crease.
Conor Garland scores a goal with his face, gets some treatment and comes back to score the game winner in the third period pic.twitter.com/m5uVGZ38aO— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) January 13, 2019
Garland will continue his career with the Vancouver Canucks, and he will be given opportunities to play with elite players in a top-six role.
Acquiring Darcy Kuemper is one of the Coyotes’ best trades to date. He joined the Coyotes in 2018 in exchange for Tobias Rieder and Scott Wedgewood. He took over as starter when Antti Raanta was out due to injury in the 2018-2019 season.
He played 55 games that season with a 27-20-8 record and a .925 save percentage. Since then, he has been a formidable netminder who gave the Coyotes a chance to win every night. The team will miss having a solid goalie tandem as both Raanta and Kuemper have moved on.
Kuemper was also not afraid to stand up for his teammates. He slammed Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk to the ground in 2019. The Coyotes have never been an overly physical team, so that line brawl was thrilling.
Darcy Kuemper throws down Matthew Tkachuk and David Rittich skates down to take him on pic.twitter.com/yllR3zqtBg— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) November 16, 2019
Kuemper’s trade to the Colorado Avalanche made sense for both teams. After their starter, Philip Grubauer, signed with the Seattle Kraken, they wanted their goaltending to be a strength on their already well-constructed team.
Nevertheless, it is hard to forget how Kuemper was a lone soldier in a war against the Avalanche in the 2020 NHL Playoffs. Now, the Coyotes will have to face their new divisional opponent with Kuemper behind enemy lines.
8/19/20 – The Coyotes lost their COVID-delayed First Round playoff series to the Colorado Avalanche in Edmonton, with their second consecutive 7-1 loss to lose the series 4-1. G Darcy Kuemper faced 334 shots, stopping 305, in nine playoff games, both then-#NHL highs. #Yotes pic.twitter.com/BZ2ZH5mxd8— Arizona Sports History (@AZSportsHistory) August 20, 2021
Christian Dvorak was one of only three Coyotes players who had been in the system since before 2015. Now, all three of those players (Michael Bunting, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and Christian Dvorak) will be in a new uniform come next season.
Dvorak consistently puts up 30-point seasons, and last season, he scored 31 points in 56 games. He was the Coyotes’ best faceoff man winning 52.07% of his faceoffs last season. He won 55.11% of them in the 2019-2020 season.
He developed a new shootout move coined the “Reverse Radim” due to its similarity to shootout hero Radim Vrbata’s signature move. Even as goalies started to catch on to the trick, they still could not stop the speed of the backhand shot.
Dvorak will likely play center on the second line as he is only behind Nick Suzuki in the depth chart. Montreal Canadiens fans hope that he can fill the defensive role that Philip Danault provided before he signed with the Los Angeles Kings.