An abundance of talent on the blue line could lead to a proven scorer headed to the Valley
The Phoenix Coyotes face a financial dilemma. Very little is actually settled when it comes to the ownership situation. While potential owner Greg Jamison is awaiting the final confirmation of the deal he negotiated with the city of Glendale, the free-agent period has begun and most of the big names have been signed.
The Coyotes have been active, signing veterans Steve Sullivan (Pittsburgh) and David Moss (Calgary), but the fans in Phoenix crave the signing of a big scorer. When a team faces financial uncertainty, the best and most efficient way to improve it is through a trade.
As reported by Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic, the Coyotes will look to the trade market to make additions to their team.
It just so happens that the Coyotes have a plethora of defensemen in their system that could motivate other teams to trade some offensive talent to the Desert Dogs.
While Rick Nash (Columbus) or Bobby Ryan (Ducks) might be out of the Coyotes' price range, don't be shocked if GM Don Maloney pulls the trigger on a deal with one of these youngsters as the centerpiece.
Here is a list of the young defensemen the Coyotes have and why they could be attractive to potential suitors.
Yandle has been sought after by many teams this offseason
Keith Yandle, 25 years old, 6'1", 190 lbs
Phoenix (NHL), 82 games, 11-32-43, Plus-5, 51 PIM
Yandle is the current assistant captain of the Coyotes and is not a prospect anymore. He is the prototypical two-way defenseman. He is an offensive force who moves from end to end with breakneck speed. He has great vision, quarterbacks the Coyotes power play and possesses an accurate shot from the point.
Defensively, Yandle has also improved. He has had a plus rating for the last three seasons, can play physical and uses his speed and intelligence to position himself in passing and shooting lanes fairly well.
Yandle is signed through 2016. His cap number is $5.25 million this year, and that might cause some issues considering the club's current financial situation. The sooner the situation is stable, the better chance that Yandle remains with the club.
He seems to be the first name that is brought up when it comes to any trade involving bringing a scorer to the team. The Coyotes listened to offers during the draft and rumors that he is still on the market persist.
It would be a disappointment to many in Phoenix if Yandle were dealt, but the Coyotes are dealing from a position of strength and have the depth in Yandle's position to potentially deal him.
If a Rick Nash or a Bobby Ryan-type player were available and Yandle's name came up, the 'Yotes would have to listen.
Stone finished last season with the Coyotes impressing the organization with his play
Michael Stone, 22 years old, 6'3", 207 lbs
Phoenix, 13 Games, 1-2-3, Plus-7, 2 PIM
Portland (AHL), 51 Games, 9-13-22, Plus-2, 24 PIM
Stone was very impressive when he was called up throughout the season. His game translated into more of a stay-at-home variety at the NHL level. He is a skilled puck-mover and plays physical when necessary.
Many of his characteristics remind me of veteran defenseman Michal Rozsival.
In the minors, Stone put up great numbers. From 2008-2010, Stone averaged 63 points a season at the Junior level with the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL.
Stone is a restricted free agent at the end of this season. His cap number for this season is $845,833 (courtesy of CapGeek.com). Both of those items make him extremely marketable and he will attract attention if a potential trade is proposed.
I would hate to see him go, but would understand if he went in a trade. I would love to see him get time as the Coyotes' sixth defenseman this season and be signed to an extension during the year.
Schlemko is coming off an injury filled season but has played well when in the lineup for the 'Yotes
David Schlemko, 25 years old, 6'1", 196 lbs
Phoenix, 46 games, 1-10-11, Plus-7, 10 PIM
Schlemko is very similar to Michael Stone in his style of play. He also put up some impressive numbers at the Junior level with Medicine Hat (WHL), averaging almost 44 points a season from 2004-2007.
In the NHL, his game is more of the stay-at-home variety. He is a solid defender who uses his intelligence and positioning to be effective. He is also more confident at moving the puck out of his own zone and starting the Coyotes' transition game.
He has more NHL experience than Stone, playing in over 100 games with the Coyotes organization over the last three seasons. He is coming off of an injury-plagued season (foot surgery) that limited him to 46 games.
Schlemko is a restricted free agent after this season. His cap figure is $550,000 (courtesy of CapGeek.com) for this upcoming year, which makes him a prime candidate for a trade, as taking on his salary would be worth the risk for those teams who are looking for a top-six defenseman in a trade.
The talented Summers is looking to make the Coyotes on a full-time basis this season
Chris Summers, 24 years old, 6'2", 209 lbs
Phoenix, 21 games, 0-3-3, Minus-4, 11 PIM
Portland (AHL), 28 games, 0-2-2, Plus-3, 37 PIM
Summers has had a couple of slightly disappointing seasons considering the expectations that were placed on him. The former first-round draft pick was a rock on the back line for the University of Michigan from 2006-2010, but his game has not translated to the NHL level as was expected.
He has struggled to stick at the NHL level and his statistics at the AHL level over the past two seasons (103 games, 1-11-12) are nothing to get excited about.
Summers is a restricted free agent and the Coyotes have not publicly made any long-term commitment to him. His contract over the last two seasons cost the Coyotes over $1.2 million against their cap (courtesy of CapGeek.com) and they have not seen the return necessary to lock him up long-term, especially with their depth.
If the Coyotes are looking to let one of their young defensemen go, it might be Summers, either through a trade or letting him walk. If they do decide to trade him, re-signing him might be the best way to show that he still has value to the organization before they deal him for more.
The offensively gifted Rundblad is trying to crack the top-six D-men for the 'Yotes this season
David Rundblad, 21 years old, 6'2", 190 lbs
Ottawa/Phoenix (NHL), 30 games, 1-6-7, Minus-12, 6 PIM
Portland (AHL), 30 games, 7-9-16, Minus-18, 27 PIM
Rundblad is an extremely talented offensive defenseman that the Coyotes acquired in a trade last year with Ottawa. He is quick on his skates, moves the puck well and has a good shot from the point, which could help the Coyotes power play.
He is also really young and plays with good poise for his age. He has good size and strength for his position.
Rundblad's problem is that his youth and inexperience work against him as a defender. While he contributes offensively, he hurts his team on defense by being out of position and being too aggressive.
Combining his minor and NHL statistics from the last year, he was a minus-30. Dave Tippett is not the type of coach that employs defensemen that are a minus-30 during a season.
The former first-round draft pick from Sweden is highly-touted and could be a target for another team who plays a little more offensively than the Coyotes do. Rundblad does not really fit in with Phoenix's tight checking defensive system.
One thing working for you if you are a fan of Rundblad's and want to see him stay with the Coyotes is his salary. Rundblad's salary for next season will cost the Coyotes $1.5 million against the cap (courtesy CapGeek.com), making him one of the more expensive options on this list.
If Rundblad can fix his defensive deficiencies, he could be an important part of the Coyotes' success going forward. If not, he will be trade-bait as the 'Yotes hope to flip last year's addition into another piece of the Championship puzzle.
Goncharov will try to make his role a permanent one with the Coyotes in training camp
Maxim Goncharov, 23 years old, 6'3", 215 lbs
Portland (AHL), 45 games, 1-3-4, Minus-15, 37 PIM
Goncharov is a physical force for the Coyotes affiliate in Portland. He plays in the typical Eastern European style, using his physique as his greatest asset. He possesses good size and decent speed.
He has scored 20 points over the past two seasons in the AHL with Portland and San Antonio and could be marketable to a team who is looking for a physical blueliner who is not afraid to mix it up with the opposition.
He is an open-ice hitter who looks to put the fear in the opposition as they attempt to enter the zone. He has a cannon of a point shot as well.
If there is a downside, it's the fact that his plus/minus rating has been on the minus side for his two seasons in North America. If he can become more cognizant defensively and reduce that number, he could be a valuable tool for an NHL team in the future.
The former fifth-round draft pick was a good value pick for the organization. His cap number for next year is $1.075 million (courtesy of CapGeek.com) which could scare some teams off that don't think he is NHL-ready yet.
Gormley is the most heralded of the young defensive prospects for the Coyotes
Brandon Gormley, 20 years old, 6'1", 185 lbs
Moncton/Shawnigan (QMJHL), Junior Hockey, Reg. Season/Memorial Cup, 42 games, 13-28-41, Plus-3, 28 PIM
Gormley is the most highly-touted of all of these young defensemen. He is ultra-talented and has the potential to excel in all aspects of the game.
He has great hands, good vision, a strong wiry build and the ability to play physically. He's not afraid to hit and does not shy away from contact.
His offensive potential is what excites many prognosticators, but his ability to be rock-solid in his own end will allow him to become a top-four defenseman in this league someday.
His abilities are coveted, and I am sure every time a team talks to the Coyotes about a potential trade, his name is one of the first to be mentioned. I also think he is the least likely to get traded because of his skill set.
His cap number is $1.315 million for this upcoming season and he will get every chance in camp to make the team this year.
Because the Coyotes are so loaded with talent on the blue line, it might be one more year before we see Gormley on a permanent basis, but with the Coyotes' track record of playing young blueliners early (Yandle, Ekman-Larsson), he has a chance to make it this year if he earns it.
Murphy is the youngest of the Coyotes prospects on this list
Connor Murphy, 19 years old, 6'3", 185 lbs
Sarnia (OHL), Junior Hockey, 35 games, 8-18-26, Minus-3, 26 PIM
Murphy is the youngest of the group. The former first-round pick is the son of former NHL'er Gord Murphy and just completed a successful season with the Ontario Hockey League's Sarnia Sting.
After Sarnia's season was completed, he was recalled by the Coyotes, first to Portland and then to the Coyotes at the end of the season. While he did not play in a game for the Desert Dogs, he is said to have a very bright future.
He is more of a stay-at-home defenseman who is developing offensive skills. Good size, good puck movement and a fairly strong skater, Murphy is still probably a few years away from joining the big club.
His cap number for the Coyotes is $1.1 million for next season if he joins the big club. He will be sought after, but the Coyotes will probably look to keep him and develop him in the minors for the next few years.
If the right package comes along though, you never know.