To say that things didn’t go exactly as planned for the 2017-18 Arizona Coyotes might be the understatement of the century. The Coyotes entered 2017-18 with the modest expectation of improving upon last season’s dreadful 70 point season… instead they ended up with a nearly identical record.
The youngsters who were supposed to take a step forward, namely Dylan Strome, Max Domi, Christian Dvorak and Anthony Duclair, either regressed or stalled. In Duclair’s case, he played himself right out of a job and ended up being traded to the Chicago Blackhawks in January.
A brand new head coach with a Stanley Cup pedigree was supposed to deliver success to the Arizona desert. Instead Rick Tocchet struggled to get his new team on board with his systems and strategy, to the point where they dropped a historic 11 games to start the season. Veteran additions like Derek Stepan and Niklas Hjalmarsson took awhile to acclimate to their new team, while the team’s new starting goalie Antti Raanta struggled through some nagging injuries.
Add all this up and you’ve got the recipe for another wasted season in Arizona.
There was, however, a silver lining to the 2017-18 season for the Coyotes. Rookie Clayton Keller was an absolute sensation. He lead the Coyotes in scoring with 23 goals and 65 points in 82 games. Raanta, when healthy, looked every bit the starting goaltender that the team was hoping for when they acquired him from the New York Rangers last offseason. Even Strome, the highly touted former 3rd overall pick, manage to find his game in the season’s final dozen games. So, despite the poor showing in the standings, there’s still a lot to be hopeful for with this team, but there’s still work to be done.
Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised then that Coyotes general manager John Chayka has some big plans for this upcoming offseason. AZCentral’s Richard Morin recently caught up with Chayka and managed to get the 28 year old to open up regarding trades, free-agency and his blueprint for the 2018-19 Arizona Coyotes.
Chayka made one thing clear, he’s keen to get back to the phones, in the hopes of swinging a trade or two. He admitted to Morin that he’l be active on the trade market this summer and that he has specific targets in mind.
“These are players we’ve targeted for a long time,” Chayka said. “There’s a lot more fluidity and liquidity in the (offseason trade) market. For me as a manager, it’s a lot easier to make those types of moves. The draft is a time to do it. But certainly we’ve laid the groundwork and (are) looking forward to continuing those conversations.”
Interesting. While we can only speculate about which players specifically Chayka is talking about, there’s speculation that the team is interested in Toronto Maple Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk and that they could attempt to land him before he hits the unrestricted free-agent market on July 1st. New York Islanders superstar John Tavares is also slated to become a free-agent on July 1st, could Chayka swoop in early and swing a deal with Isles GM Garth Snow to bring Tavares to the desert?
Anything is possible with the Coyotes, they have plenty of cap space and several roster spots that they’ll need to fill this offseason. Don’t be surprised if Chayka and the Coyotes are a major player this offseason.