During the 2018-19 season, the Arizona Coyotes decided they needed to make a change. Former third overall pick Dylan Strome struggled to find his place in the NHL, and the Coyotes were unsure what his future would be. So the Desert Dog shipped Strome to Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for forward Nick Schmaltz, who has been with the team ever since.
Games Played: 63
TOI/Games Played: 18:15
PP TOI: 151:02
PK TOI: 31:24
Schmaltz has struggled since coming over from the Windy City. Until this past year, his best season was his sophomore season in Chicago, where he recorded 21 goals and 31 assists.
The Madison, WI native had a few issues, namely his play away from the puck. Additionally, while Schmaltz played well with Clayton Keller, the two younger players rarely were on the ice together, thanks to the previously mentioned issues away from the puck.
Head coach André Tourigny didn’t have an issue playing Keller and Schmaltz together, probably because both were older and took steps to improve their game. Although it’s not like Tourigny had a lot of other options, at times, the Coyotes’ offense was just Keller and Schmaltz.
Unfortunately, while Schmaltz is the Coyotes’ best center by default, he does seem to play better on the wing. Keller and Schmaltz seemed to click with Travis Boyd, and there is no discounting chemistry, but it was clear that Schmaltz works best on the wing.
If any player was going to fall apart when Clayton Keller went down, you would think it would be Nick Schmaltz. The two have had phenomenal chemistry since Schmaltz came over from the Chicago Blackhawks, and they were really clicking when Keller was playing his best.
But Schmaltz was able to maintain his strong play even without Keller. The Madison, WI native had three goals and nine assists in his final 15 games of the season, including a four-game point streak to finish things out, showing that he could play without his favorite linemate.
Unfortunately, Schmaltz also had to deal with injuries this season. He missed all of November and the first week of December and was limited to 63 games. However, with 23 goals and 36 assists, he was on pace for a 30-goal, 77-point season.
Like Keller, Schmaltz’s contract seemed like an anchor going into this season. But Schmaltz has proven his worth with a solid season and held the team together when things got rough.
Schmaltz has four years left on his seven-year, $40.95 million deal. He will get paid more starting next season, and his modified no-trade clause will kick in for the 2023-24 season, meaning if the team is going to trade him, now may be the time.
But Schmaltz and Keller play exceptionally well together, and it seems like it would be a mistake to split them up. They have great chemistry, and they will only improve with a skilled center between them who can complement their skill.