On Wednesday the NHL dropped the damn hammer on the Arizona Coyotes for violating the league’s combine testing policy.
The resulting forfeiting of picks now leaves Arizona without a pick in the first three rounds in 2020, and if Taylor Hall re-signs this summer it will leave them without a pick in the first two rounds in 2021. (If Hall leaves, then the Coyotes will keep their 2nd round pick in 2021, and lose their 3rd round pick that year as part of the trade.)
Arizona is in an unstable place as an organization as it in. Right before the play-in round started, their general manager left the team in what was ultimately a bizarre series of events I will attempt to distill based on ESPN’s reporting.
1) The Coyotes new owner expressed support for GM John Chayka and handed him a three-year contract extension.
2) The Coyotes denied another NHL owner permission to interview Chayka.
3) Chayka convinced the Coyotes it wasn’t a job interview.
4) It was a job interview.
5) Chayka asked to be released from his contract to take said mystery job. The Coyotes said no, but they would re-visit over the summer. Chayka didn’t like the delay, the Coyotes got word that the job wasn’t what he claimed it was. The two sides got into a feud. Chayka quit.
That was two weeks ago. Throw in the sanctions from the NHL on Wednesday and you have a hell of a two-week stretch for the team.
So as things currently stand: The Coyotes have one pick total in the first three rounds of the NHL draft the next two years, no general manager, a new owner who is looking to prove they don’t need Chayka, and they’re coming off a 4-1 loss in the play in round to Colorado with their star player a UFA set to hit the market this offseason.
Where do the Rangers fit into this? Well, they’re an Eastern Conference team, who just won the draft lottery, who have another first round pick between 20-24 this year, and a couple of RFAs coming off career-high seasons that can fetch more assets or be used in a trade themselves.
When talking about Arizona and the Rangers, Jakob Chychrun is the crown jewel. The 22-year-old would immediately slot in to upgrade the left side of the Rangers’ defense. On top of that, he’s signed for five more years with a $4.6-million cap hit. Arizona, on top of not having any picks worth value the next two years, are right up to the ceiling of the cap, and aren’t losing many dollars this summer. If they want to keep Hall they’re going to have to shed some salary or get more flexible.
The Rangers won’t be much help in that regard in terms of taking back a bad salary, but they might be able to help in other ways. It’s no surprise that Arizona needs cap and cash flexibility. It’s no surprise the Rangers need a left handed defenseman long term and a second line center.
There are strange options that can be looked into. Derek Stepan is an interesting target, specifically if you’re trying to get Arizona to pull the trigger for Chychrun. Stepan is owed $6.5-million for one more year after this one. The Coyotes have a few younger centers on their roster who are likely looking to take a step forward, and Stepan is owed a $3-million signing bonus that I’m sure Arizona would love to not have to pay. Combined Stepan and Chychrun are an $11.1-million salary cap hit. Depending on how the Rangers’ own salary situation works out — maybe they find a way to send Brendan Smith back, or maybe Henrik Lundqvist retires and the Rangers can absorb both contracts — the Rangers can stopgap their center issues for a year while adding a long-term piece to the weakest side of their defense.
Depending on how fancy the Rangers want to get, you could go all over the place with potential returns. Carolina’s 1st round pick would be a must in any deal more than likely — Stepan or not — but the Rangers would like to avoid names like K’Andre Miller, Nils Lundkvist, or Vitali Kravtsov. More than likely, specifically if the Rangers are eating some cap in a deal, names like Matthew Robertson are more than likely to be involved. Arizona would probably have interest in Alexander Georgiev as well, but they have two goalies locked up for a couple more years and Georgiev needs to be re-signed. The math doesn’t work there.
Then again, it’s possible the Rangers try to make their own cap shifts, including Brendan Smith, but that likely adds more of a return from Gorton. Overall, Arizona has to be looked at as a prime candidate for a potential trade, and right now Gorton has the time to scope it out.