This off-season has certainly been busy for the Coyotes, although much of it has not been all that positive. After finishing the 2014/2015 NHL season near the bottom of the standings, the Coyotes looked to shore up their future prospects by picking wisely in the draft and then attracting some quality free agents to the team.
Not long after the final puck dropped on the Coyotes last season, the city of Glendale, Arizona (where they call home) dropped a bombshell on them that they were cancelling their lease on the stadium they have called home for recent years. Still having years remaining on the lease, this is obviously troubling legal news for the team and they immediately filed an injunction against the city. What this means for the team’s immediate future is not entirely clear, but it has served to further muddy the waters for a team that has already suffered through years of uncertain ownership issues. With the team finally out from under control of the NHL, having been purchased by a group of serious and committed owners, they hoped that such controversy was behind them. This was not the type of news from the city, therefore, that they welcomed. It has created uncertainty where the team will call home for the long term future, and it has caused some quality free agents to overlook the team in exchange for more security elsewhere.
The General Manager of the Coyotes, Don Maloney, worked hard to put these troubles and impending controversy behind him, and conducted what many around the league consider to be spectacular draft selections. Residing in the mighty Pacific Division makes playing tough and competitive, so the Coyotes looked to use their third overall pick in the draft to gain strength along the center line. They chose Dylan Strome from the Erie Otters, and this appears to be a wise move. Strome is strong and he is big. He is a quality player that should be able to contribute soon. The Coyotes also had the last pick in the first round, in addition to second round picks. They used each pick to continue rebuilding the team, and all indications are that they have succeeded. It is perhaps the strength of their draft that enabled them, in the end, to make some solid acquisitions in free agency as well.
Graphic via zimbio
It does appear that the storm surrounding the Coyotes legal troubles did little, in the end, to affect their ability to attract some quality free agents. They splashed some money around the league and look to have really strengthened their prospects for next year and beyond. Perhaps the most notable move was their 2-year, $7.5 million agreement reached with center Antoine Vermette. Once he was signed, the Coyotes were also able to reach terms with their own defenseman Zbynek Michalek, and they were able to bring in a third-line center in Brad Richardson. Rounding it out, they were able to attract three other notable free agents as well. That, coupled with a better than expected draft, should put a bright spot on an off season that certainly started out about as poorly as one could envision.
Graphic via canescountry