About the only optimism for the Phoenix Coyotes in their stretch drive may come from management.
Overall, not much excitement was generated from three deals pulled off by Don Maloney, the team’s general manager, at the trade deadline Wednesday. The combination of no ownership and lack of valuable inventory interacted to keep the Coyotes from making any meaningful deals.
For all practical purposes, the three trades just before Wednesday’s deadline add up to a whole bunch of nothing.
The main motivation in dealing Raffi Torres to San Jose, Matthew Lombardi to Anaheim and Steve Sullivan to New Jersey was to rid the franchise of unrestricted free agents who would not likely return next season.
In exchange, the Coyotes get a 2013 third-round pick for Torres, a 2014 seventh-round pick from the Devils for Sullivan and they pick up forward Brandon McMillan from the Ducks for Lombardi, who was assigned to the AHL Portland Pirates.
In announcing the trades, assistant general manager Brad Treliving—filling in for GM Maloney, who was away due to the death of his father—told reporters the deals do not compromise the current core of the team. The three departures now make room for players, Treliving said, “who can push for roster spots.”
After these transactions, the Coyotes recalled forwards Chris Brown and Chris Connor from the Pirates and both are expected in the lineup Thursday night. That’s when the Detroit Red Wings skate into Jobing.com Arena.
“We hope the players coming from Portland will inject energy and spirit,” Treliving said. “Look, the recalls can’t be saviors but you never know the kind of production you will get.”
Treliving denied the Coyotes “gave up” on Lombardi, Torres and Sullivan.
“All three will be unrestricted free agents this summer, and I guess some people will believe that,” he said. “For Lombardi, he never seemed to get a rhythm. Sullivan was not as good as he could be and likely not to be back.”
Torres, after serving a 25-game suspension dating back to last season’s playoffs and into this lockout-shortened season, displayed energy and verve, but not much production. In 28 games this season, Torres scored five times and assisted on seven others for 12 points.
The Lombardi trade was interesting because he was acquired just before the 2009 trade deadline. Coach Dave Tippett said he liked Lombardi’s speed and skill. Still, the Coyotes believed Lombardi would leave after this season, and, from an organizational standpoint, at least they obtained a player in exchange.
In relation to the task ahead, Treliving said the Coyotes have the players and the energy to make a creditable stretch run. Injuries to forward Lauri Korpikoski, goalie Mike Smith and defenseman Zbynek Michalek, Treliving said, have been difficult and he hoped for the trio back on the ice as soon as possible.
Coming into Thursday’s game with Detroit, the Coyotes were in 12th place, but two points behind eighth-place St. Louis. Just to qualify for postseason play, they would have to leap over Edmonton, Columbus and Nashville and contend with Dallas at one standing point behind.
“I believe we can push forward to compete for a playoff spot,” Treliving added. “The deals we made opens the door of opportunity for several players and we believe those guys can compete for a roster spot.”
The bigger question is whether the deals Wednesday make Phoenix a better team and a team to contend hard for a playoff position.
The answer to both is a rather definitive no.
Mark Brown is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
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