Quo Vadis, Desert Dogs?

MatzelContributor IFebruary 28, 2009

The upcoming NHL trade deadline from a Coyotes' perspective.

The 2008/2009 season marks year two since the front office was cleaned, former GM Mike Barnett was given his walking papers, and the organization decided on a full fledged rebuild as the best course of action.

After years of futility at the draft table, the club is now widely considered among the 'best stocked' with quality prospects, league wide.

Over the last almost two seasons, a number of very promising, young prospects have been given quality ice time in the NHL, while a second wave of talent is currently playing on the farm in San Antonio (AHL) or with their respective junior teams.

The Phoenix Coyotes started well into this season and heading into the All Star break, they were sitting at a very respectable fifth spot in the Western Conference.

Unfortunately, the club made headlines for all the wrong reasons during a time when the on ice performance was better then what realistically could have been expected heading into this season.

The team is among the cash strapped, debt burdened franchises of the NHL and a number of media outlets have been having regular field days reporting bad news and dooms day scenarios.

The league had to advance revenue sharing dollars while the City of Glendale has allowed the team to play rent free (fore giving a rumored $4.0 million in rent), apparently keeping the Coyotes afloat.

The Arizona sports market has not so far embraced the team and even though attendance figures are up considerably over last season and TV ratings for broadcast games are much improved, the club desperately needs on ice success to gain a more committed, broader following.

That is where General Manager Don Maloney is caught between a rock and a hard place: Immediate or accelerated success would help lure more fans to the game, while sticking with the rebuild and depending on the young prospects will take more time but promises greater long-term success.

Time that this franchise may not have in this market and under the current set of economic circumstances.

With the playoffs now seemingly only a mathematical possibility for the Coyotes, the Coyotes should once again be sellers at the trade deadline. GM Don Maloney and his staff will be entertaining offers for players that could be attractive to other teams for either better odds at making the playoffs or an attempt at retooling for a deep playoff run.

Obvious targets of other teams would be players who are scheduled to become Unrestricted Free Agents (UFA) during the summer:

  • Derek Morris, Defenseman, 29 years, '08/'09 salary: $3.95 million

Morris has reportedly been offered a one year deal by the Coyotes and while he has stated that he would like to remain with the organization, he is believed to be seeking a three-year (plus) deal. If the two sides can not work out a deal before the deadline, he is likely to be moved.

  • Steve Reinprecht, Center, 32 years, '08/'09 salary: $2.0 million

Reinprecht performs well considering his salary and it is difficult to say whether he is in the long term plans of the club. For the right return he could be moved.

  • Ken Klee, Defenseman, 37 years, '08/'09 salary: $1.25 million

Klee has been a positive surprise since he was added to the team (claimed off re-entry waivers from the Anaheim Ducks). However, on a one year deal, at 37 years of age and with a number of young blueline prospects on the verge of making the big club, he will not be around for next season.

If there is interest by another club, he will be gone.

  • Mikael Tellqvist, Goaltender, 28 years, '08/'09 salary: $800,000

Tellqvist is arguably among the best backups in the league and once again turned in some very solid performances for the Coyotes. At 28 years old, no GM will mistake him for the next coming of Jacques Plante, but he could be an insurance policy for a team going into the playoffs, not feeling too confident about it's current backup.

Nothing has been reported about Tellqvist's desire to move on or remain with the Coyotes, but with Josh Tordjman and Al Montoya in the pipeline, one would have to consider Tellqvist available.

Other players who could be available for young, proven NHL talent and/or blue chip prospects and/or draft picks:

  • Olli Jokinen, Center, 29 years, '08/'09 salary: $5.5 million

Acquired during the off season (for Keith Ballard, Nick Boynton and the 2008 49th overall entry draft pick from Florida), Jokinen was supposed to take over as the big, physical, scoring No. 1 center, able to go up against the other teams top centers in the West. While his performance to date can't be called a bust, he has not fulfilled the lofty expectations management had.

As a matter of fact, he hardly played on the top line since getting here. To boot, he never looked like he was actually enjoying himself in the desert and his game has reflected that.

Considering that he is signed through next season and what it took to bring him to Phoenix, he would have to fetch a very decent return in order to be moved.

  • David Hale, Defenseman, 27 years, '08/'09 salary: $675,000

Hale is at best a seventh or eighth defenseman, who does not do anything particularly well and lacks offensive touch. While he might be available there will likely be no takers.

  • Ed Jovanovski, Defenseman, 32 years, '08/'09 salary: $6.0 million

'Jovocop' has a No Trade Clause...so would have to approve any trade that could be made. It has to be believed that the club would love to rid itself of his contract (cap hit of $6.0 million in each of the next two seasons), but it is unlikely that any GM would want him at that price. His performances are not justifying the dollar amount he is signed to.

  • Todd Fedoruk, Left Wing, 29 years, '08/'09 salary: $1.0 million

Was brought in for added toughness during the summer and has disappointed in that regard. Fedoruk has enjoyed an average of 12 minutes of ice time/game and scored 11 points in 62 games.

A team short on physical players may remember the Fedoruk of yore and want to add him for the playoffs.

  • Daniel Winnik, Center, 23 years, '08/'09 salary: $510,000

Winnik brings the lunch pale to every game, but he lacks scoring touch around the net. Scheduled to become a Restricted Free Agent (RFA) in the summer, he could be useful to a team trying to shore up its energy line.

  • Joakim Lindstrom, Forward, 24 years, '08/'09 salary: $500,000

Lindstrom has been a very useful addition to the Coyotes since having been obtained from the Anaheim Ducks (for defensemen Logan Stephenson). At times, he has displayed unexpected offensive abilities and earned time on the Coyotes' top line.

He is on pace for .5 point/game and could be a solid third liner for any team looking for a depth player with some offensive upside. Lindstrom is scheduled to be become a RFA in the summer.

The team entered this season proclaiming that the playoffs were the declared goal and anything less would be a disappointment.

This lofty claim may have been an attempt to lure new customers into buying tickets, but at least some fans are feeling duped while watching the Coyotes once again folding like a cheap tent, following the All Star break. The club's difficult financial situation demands immediate on ice success.

In return, the Desert Dogs will be looking for players who will be contributing sooner, rather then later on all deadline deals.


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