Due to the Olympic break, NHL rosters are currently frozen. Luckily for NHL fans, it gives us plenty of time to prepare for the March 5th NHL trade deadline.
As it relates to the Phoenix Coyotes, they find themselves in an odd situation. At ninth place in the Western Conference playoff picture, they are close enough in the money to not be sellers, but also can’t afford to get too crazy for rental players.
The truly great organizations find a way to balance both, regardless of the situation. Coyote general manager Don Maloney has a reputation for being that kind of manager, with a fine resume of trade deadline moves, including the Antoine Vermette deal a couple of years ago.
This trade deadline has a lot of potential impact players, with the same names (Vanek, Miller, Moulson, Brodeur) often being thrown around in the mix. But how do these guys fit with the Coyotes?
Here are my thoughts on the potential targets and potential trading chips for the Phoenix Coyotes trading deadline.
Milan Michalek, LW
For much of the season, head coach Dave Tippett has been shifting the lineups tirelessly. One constant in all that shuffling has been the Czech line – Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata. Their third line mate has been fluid, with Tim Kennedy seeing a majority of the ice time beside these two. The line has produced with those three, but if Don Maloney finds an available winger on the trade market, make no doubt about it that he’ll find his way to Glendale.
Enter Milan Michalek, who already has ties in Phoenix – specifically his brother Zbynek. With the two brothers playing together in Sochi and Hanzal familiarizing himself with Milan in the same fashion, this could be the spark that ignites Phoenix into playoff contention.
Milan comes with some defensive concerns; his minus-22 on the season is tied for seventh lowest in the league, but still has a career plus-minus of 15. An unrestricted free agent after this season, the Coyotes brass may be more willing to make the trade if he agrees to extension prior to being moved. In 608 games played, Milan has amassed 180 goals and 200 assists, for 380 points total.
Drew Stafford, RW
The seven year veteran does not have an expiring contract and isn’t a rental, but with Buffalo struggling as much as they are, the organization is sure to be exploring all of their options at the deadline.
In the past, Phoenix has been able to make trade deadline moves that aren’t necessarily rentals. The Antoine Vermette trade comes to mind; after inconsistency in Columbus, Phoenix was able to trade for Vermette for Curtis McElhinney, a second round pick and a conditional fifth round pick. Fast forward two seasons, and Vermette is a leader on this current Coyote squad. Comparing Stafford to Vermette is a little heavy, but both players are the kind of two-way forwards that Dave Tippett covets.
A package including Rundblad and a pick or two could be enough to bring Stafford to Arizona, where he could fit in anywhere in the top nine.
PK Subban, D
As far as unlikely candidates are concerned, it’s no secret that defending Norris trophy winner PK Subban is on the trading market. An restricted free agent after this season, Subban will almost certainly see a huge payday next season. It’s also being whispered that the young blueliner overstaying his welcome a little bit in the Habs locker room. For those reasons, Montreal may be looking to unload him before both become too much to handle.
It may be a risk for the Phoenix Coyotes, a team so reliant on a team mentality to adopt such a polarizing personality, but let’s back up for a moment.
Ekman-Larsson and Subban in the same defensive corps would set the Coyotes competitively for the next several years. If Tippett can coach some of the kinks out of Subban’s game, then we’re looking at instantly a top-three blue line in the whole National Hockey League.
Again, an unlikely scenario, but one that should be on the Coyotes’ radar nonetheless.
RW Ryan Callahan, Rangers
C/LW Mike Cammalleri, Flames
LW Ray Whitney, Stars
LW Thomas Vanek, Islanders
Potential trading chips
David Rundblad, D
The strange case of David Rundblad has been an exhausting tale of squandered potential and unlucky circumstance.
Long lauded as an exciting offensive defenseman prospect, Rundblad was tearing it up in the Senators system before being sent to Phoenix in the deal that sent Kyle Turris to Ottawa. Since then, he has been in a sort of roster limbo; too skilled to be sent back down to AHL, but not quite as established as some of the veterans on the Coyotes blueline, including David Schlemko and Rostislav Klesla. In 2013-14, the Swede has only seen 12 games with only one assist in that span.
With Keith Yandle’s stranglehold as the power play quarterback, Rundblad has very little room to squeak on up in the Coyotes system, especially with talented two-way defensemen like Michael Stone and Brandon Gormley also in the system.
Still, his promising offensive upside gives him great value, and Phoenix should either find a way to get him more consistent ice time or get assets from a team who will.
Radim Vrbata, RW
In a perfect world, Radim Vrbata will be a Coyote until he retires.
After an offensive explosion in the 2011-12 season that saw Vrby score 35 goals and 62 points, the 11-year veteran is playing for a contract this season. With 39 points in 56 games, Vrbata is a core player for Phoenix, and their best offensive threat outside of Mike Ribeiro.
Still, Vrbata is an unrestricted free agent after this season, and given Phoenix’s situation, it may not be wise to not think about the future.
Really, the variable in a Vrbata deal is whether or not Phoenix is confident they can extend him to a team-friendly deal. If the price tag is too much, the Coyotes may consider liquidating him at the deadline and possibly pursue him again when he hits the market. My hope is that both sides realize what they’ve got in each other. Vrbata has three seasons of 20+ goals in a Coyotes sweater – none as a member of other organizations.
Keith Yandle, D
Much like I ended the potential target section with a stretch, so too will I end the trading chips section with a stretch.
Keith Yandle is the heart and soul of this Coyotes roster. He is most likely next in line for the captain spot when Shane Doan retires, and is consistently among the league lead in points among defensemen. He is inconsistent on defense, but is as great a combination of grit and skill as you’ll see in the National Hockey League. He’s also signed through 2016 to a (relatively) team friendly $5.25 a year.
That being said, Yandle’s value will never be higher than it is right now. Since being snubbed for the Team USA roster, the Boston native has been tearing teams apart, with 10 points in his last 13 games prior to the Olympic break.
This is a deal that’s more likely to occur in the offseason, but if the right deal presents itself, Keith Yandle’s value can be gauged, and if Don Maloney finds a deal that makes the team better, than I wouldn’t rule out a blockbuster deal, even if it means sending one of the team’s best players away in the process.
D Derek Morris
LW David Moss
G (prospect) Mark Visentin