The Arizona Coyotes are firmly set in their attempts at a full rebuild, and taking a gamble on free agent Sonny Milano could help it along.
Milano is an intriguing player in the NHL, as he looks to have all the tools of a top-six forward but has not been able to truly put it all together since being drafted 16th overall in the 2014 Draft by the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The 6-foot, 204lbs left winger has had a fairly average career since turning professional, registering 36 goals and 81 total points in 197 NHL games with a single-season high of 34 points (14 goals, 20 assists) in 66 games with the Anaheim Ducks last season.
Milano was involved in a memorable goal alongside teammate Trevor Zegras, tapping in the puck after it was lifted up and over from behind the net, and there seemed to be an expectation that the Massapequa, New York native would continue his budding partnership with Zegras.
Surprisingly, the Ducks opted not to extend him a qualifying offer and allowed him to hit unrestricted free agency. Interest in Milano appeared to be limited, and he eventually settled for a PTO with the Calgary Flames, a team that seemed perfect for him to succeed.
Now, though, Milano has been released from the PTO and is a UFA once again. After being let go by the Ducks and Flames, it’s hard to imagine much of a market for the 26-year-old, especially after it seems as if he was underwhelming during his stint in Alberta.
However, that’s where the Arizona Coyotes could benefit by taking a gamble on Milano. The winger will be desperate to find a way to stick around in the show after being cut by two teams, and the Coyotes could provide him with the perfect opportunity to do that.
The Coyotes are expected to bottom out again this season, with a chance at landing Connor Bedard first overall if they can win the draft lottery. However, they will still be keen to add players that could hold value by the time the trade deadline rolls around in March.
Milano could earn himself top-six minutes easily with the current Coyotes roster make-up, potentially becoming one of the team’s top offensive producers with the carrot dangled in front of him being the chance to be traded to a playoff team when all is said and done.
What would make this another interesting opportunity for the Coyotes is the fact that Milano will not be able to command much at all in the way of salary, given the Flames cut ties with him from his PTO.
Getting Milano on a deal close to league minimum would be a smart piece of business for general manager Bill Armstrong, and he could turn the winger into another asset, possibly a decent draft pick, by the deadline.
Adding Milano would not be an attempt to make the Arizona Coyotes more competitive this season but rather a move that could benefit the team’s rebuilding efforts even further. For Milano, it gives him another crack at the NHL, and he could even see his stock rise if he can stand out on a rebuilding Coyotes team.
With the regular season kicking off next week, NHL team rosters will start settling down toward the end of their pre-season fixtures. For the Coyotes, it could be worth extending an olive branch to Milano and seeing if the two parties can reach a mutually beneficial agreement before the team faces the Pittsburgh Penguins on opening night.