To say that things haven’t gone exactly according to plan for the Arizona Coyotes this season would be the understatement of the year. With a new head coach, a new starting goalie and one of the youngest, most dynamic rosters in the NHL, the Coyotes were expected to take a big step forward in 2017-18, but instead they fell flat on their face.
The Coyotes started the campaign with an 11 game losing streak and are the first NHL team to ever go begin a season without a regulation or OT win through its first 20 games. Yikes. Since then, things have improved slightly, but the the playoffs are still very much a pipe dream and it appears as though the Coyotes are headed for another Draft Lottery finish in the NHL standings.
With so much disappointment in the desert this season, analysts and trade insiders have tossed up a giant “FOR SALE” sign on the Coyotes’ front lawn. Need a trade deadline rental? Call Coyotes GM John Chayka? How about a goalie? Chayka’s your man. At least… that’s the narrative online and in the hockey media. But, not so fast says Chayka himself.
Arizonasports.com’s Craig Morgan caught up with Chayka to discuss his trade deadline strategy where it was revealed that the team will not make any major moves.
“I’ve had numerous discussions on a lot of different players,” Chayka said. “If there’s a chance to make our team better I’ll do it, but in the past there was a lot of need for guys to get a fresh start or to infuse youth. There were some underlying changes we were trying to make. I don’t think that’s the case any longer.”
In other words, don’t expect another Martin Hanzal deal like the team made prior to last year’s deadline. The trading of Anthony Duclair was also a move that Chayka felt the team had to make this season and it’s been done. The heavy lifting is done.
But there’s still the case of goaltender Antti Raanta who is slated to hit unrestricted free-agency this upcoming offseason. Chayka and Coyotes goaltending coach Corey Schwab have not yet determined what the plan is for Raanta, but his play between now and the February 26th trade deadline could go a long way in helping them make up their minds. Trade or contract extension?
“I think you’re always evaluating and you do need a lot of data with goalies to make a decision,” Chayka said. “Having said that, he’s passed a lot of the tests. He’s done a lot of good things.”
“It’s not like there’s a deficiency in his game,” Schwab said, addressing Raanta. “It’s just about what they’re feeling, and when you get to know a guy you get a better feel for them. They become more open as to what they’re feeling in a game and what they want to work on.”
To be fair, Raanta’s season has been somewhat derailed by injury. It doesn’t help that his team’s defense has been borderline awful on most evenings, either. Still, he’d carry significant value on the trade market, so you have to imagine that Chayka will at least listen to offers if teams come calling. It’s unlikely that he’ll actively shop Raanta, though. With little else behind the netminder for next season, the most likely scenario is that he signs a one-year “show me” type deal with the team ahead of the opening of free-agency.