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PHNX Coyotes monthly mailbag: You asked, I tried to answer

Craig Morgan Avatar
March 25, 2022

I don’t put a lot of stock in NHL strength of schedule metrics because the NHL is an ever-changing landscape and these metrics generally do not take into account key variables such as travel, days of rest, goalies, injuries, streaks and slumps.

That said, tankathon.com is currently charting team’s remaining strengths of schedules and because the remainder of the Coyotes season is all about tanking, I thought I would at least note that of the three teams legitimately in the race for the league’s worst record, Montréal (No. 8), Seattle (No. 10) and Arizona (No. 13), all have relatively difficult schedules the rest of the way, with the margins between them too small and the variables too numerous to say any one team’s schedule is tougher than the other’s.

Montréal and Seattle have 18 games remaining while the Coyotes have 19 as they open a three-game series in Canada with the Calgary Flames on Friday.

I have this conspiracy theory rattling around in my head that the Canadiens will win the lottery because the NHL Draft is in Montréal this year and whenever there is a marquee center available in the draft, Canadian teams tend to win the lottery (Edmonton, Connor McDavid, 2015; Toronto, Auston Matthews, 2016).

Even so, if the Coyotes can draft either Shane Wright or Logan Cooley (and not Dylan Strome 2.0), it will be a good year. Given their recent acquisitions, consider that the Coyotes center prospect depth chart could look like this after the draft with Barrett Hayton already in the NHL fold and showing good signs of progress this season:
1. Shane Wright or Logan Cooley
2. Jan Jeník
3. Nathan Smith
4. Jack McBain
5. John Farinacci

Let’s get to your questions in the March edition of the PHNX Coyotes monthly mailbag. You had a lot of them.

Illustration by Bea Wyatt

From Discord

Yes. I think that decision has already been made internally and to me, it makes sense. If you’re going to be bad anyway, why spend a lot of money being bad? That’s just poor financial management. The only thing I question is whether it will impact GM Bill Armstrong’s ability to execute all of the moves that he hopes to make.

I don’t know exactly where the cap will fall, but I expect the Coyotes to be just a little above the floor while getting creative with some of the contracts that they acquire such as Bryan Little’s.

Without a top center, I can’t see Keller being more than a point-per-game player, but that doesn’t mean other areas of his game can’t improve. I still wonder what Keller and Nick Schmaltz would look like with a legitimate top-six center between them.

Chicago-style thin crust (yes, Chicago does thin crust, too) with Italian sausage, roasted red peppers and artichoke hearts. Pizza perfection.

Somebody asked me that the other day and I just don’t know how to do that over the long haul. I can tell you that since I returned to being a full-time Coyotes beat writer in 2009, I have only missed a handful of the 43 home games (with preseason) and I generally attend at least that many practices (likely more). So in 13 seasons, let’s say that I have made 90 trips per season to Glendale. The drive is a perfect 100 miles round trip so that’s 117,000 miles to Glendale since the start of the 2009-10 season, and that doesn’t count the miles to the Ice Den Scottsdale where they have sometimes practiced, or the drive to the airport for road trips.

You should try a hot dog at Christian Fischer’s favorite spot: Gene and Jude’s.

Don’t believe the hype of other places. The best Chicago-style deep-sigh pizza can be found at Pequod’s Pizza.

If you don’t mind spending, Girl & The Goat offers a unique dining experience along the West Randolph corridor, and Gibson’s Italia offers stunning views of the Chicago skyline with supreme cuisine. Honestly, there are hundreds of great places in the city.

Forward Colin Theisen signed a PTO for the rest of the season and an AHL two-way contract for 2022-23 with the Tucson Roadrunners.

Forward Johnny Walker joined the ECHL’s Utah Grizzlies for the remainder of the season.

Defenseman Jacob Wilson signed a one-year AHL contract with the Providence Bruins (Boston’s affiliate).

Defenseman Tim Theocharidis joined the ECHL’s Adirondack Thunder for the remainder of the season.

Forward Jack Becker and forward Willie Knierim joined the ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads for the remainder of the season.

Forward Sean Dhooghe will be Sun Devil hockey’s graduate assistant coach next season.

Bronson Moore is applying to medical school (because goalies are smarter), forward Chris Grando is still looking for pro opportunities, and forward Jordan Sandhu is exploring a fifth year of college hockey elsewhere. 

They will not pull him from the lineup unless he is injured.

I don’t know yet. The Coyotes are hoping so, and my guess is that they had such conversations before acquiring him from Winnipeg.

It’s too soon to say. It will depend on the level of play, the quality of training and care, and the sustainability of the league. I wrote about it in a recent Neutral Zone (fifth note down).

Ideally, it would give Arizona, California, Nevada and Colorado players the opportunity to stay home and continue their development, but elite players are always going to choose the best opportunities for development so if the league is not up to snuff, it won’t succeed in attracting top talent.

I have to believe that Kessel will get to 400 before the end of the season (he’s only two shy) but he is on pace for the worst goal-scoring season of his career. He just can’t buy one.

It’s a good question and I don’t have an exact answer. I think that teams need to taste success for stretches of a season to believe that it is attainable. The Coyotes have already done that for a couple of stretches this season. Right now, losing is in the best interest of the franchise.

Nick Schmaltz, J.J. Moser, Shayne Gostisbehere, Dysin Mayo and Conor Timmins.

It would be my family and I would pick one of five cities: Vancouver, Milan, Barcelona, Paris or Chicago.

From Twitter

The plan is to let them continue to develop right where they are. None is ready to jump to North American pro hockey.

You may be right but I think the Coyotes and other teams will be cautious when spending precious draft capital on players whose futures in the NHL are murky at best. I think it will be a “You go first” mentality when it comes to drafting Russian players.

I think that the Coyotes will at least explore this possibility and you are correct: It would be all about the other asset coming back. There are reports that teams are asking for a first-round pick in exchange for freeing Vegas from its self-imposed cap hell. We’ll see how desperate the Golden Knights are. That’s an early report and these things tend to be fluid.

I do not think that the Coyotes are on his no-trade list. My understanding is that the 10-team list was made mostly for tax purposes so consider the markets where the taxes are the highest (Canada, Southern California, etc.) and you probably can compile the list. It’s almost always about the money…

Kyle Dubas seems upset with a lot of folks (the Chicago GM for one). Perhaps he should focus more on his team winning a playoff series, given all of the inherent advantages that the Toronto market affords its GM. It could be another long summer in Toronto. I have the Maple Leafs bowing out in the first round again.

I have not heard of any, but as a reader noted, they have done this in the past. I’d be all in on covering it if they did it again.

I expect more of the same. And remember, the prize at the end of next season is a potential generational center: Connor Bedard.

This is an excellent question and it bugs me how faceoffs are currently tracked. You are 100 percent correct that it often takes a team to win a faceoff. Faceoffs are as much about what happens right after the initial touch as they are about the guy in the circle with his stick down. This is the main reason why I discount the significance of faceoff percentage. The metric isn’t measuring what it is supposed to measure. It needs to be refined.

The expectation is for next year’s team to look a lot like this year’s team. They will not add pieces for a playoff push because that would mean abandoning the plan; something that has happened far too often here in the past. They do not have the pieces to do anything meaningful in the playoffs so it makes no sense to chase the playoffs or even mediocrity. Staying the course is the stated focus.

The 2023-24 season should be the first season where we start to see some of the plan unfolding on the ice with some of the prospects in the mix. It won’t be a playoff season, but ideally, it will offer a tease of what’s to come.

Vacation? What vacation?

I don’t think that we will see as many next season. Maybe three or four. Many of the prospects have already made their debuts this season due to injuries.

Petey and I were just talking about the goalie angle. They have had three different goalie coaches (Benoit Allaire, Sean Burke, Corey Schwab), all of whom have done well by their pupils, but you should also credit their pro scouts with identifying guys who could take the next step in their careers (Ilya Bryzgalov, Mike Smith, Thomas Greiss, Devan Dubnyk, Darcy Kuemper, etc.)

It may happen with a couple of veteran teams like Tampa and Pittsburgh, but I think most of them, particularly the teams that have not tasted playoff success, will want to be on a roll as they enter the postseason.

Also, as I noted above, strength of schedule metrics are highly inexact. I don’t put much stock in them.

He is still listed as week-to-week with an upper-body injury.

Definitely. It’s what Nash wanted. His agent confirmed that for me. He has a chance to help Tampa win another Cup and he is obviously familiar with that team.

As for Kessel, only two teams were even interested in Kessel (the Rangers and Predators) and neither was willing to take on his cap hit. The Coyotes only had one retained salary slot remaining and they wanted to use that to get a third-round pick from Washington for Johan Larsson. I’m sure some people will spin it as not doing right by Phil. The bottom line is this: Not many teams were interested in Phil.

I grouped these together because they all touch on the same topic. I hope it doesn’t turn ugly with Chychrun and I have even wondered if there is a way for the Coyotes to mend that fence, but my sense is that Chychrun welcomed a trade and there was likely disappointment that it didn’t happen. He wants to win now and I don’t think that the franchise’s off-ice foibles sit well with his camp.

This goes back to last summer when the Islanders reportedly inquired about his availability and were told that he was not available. That got back to Chychrun’s camp. As the season unfolded, the losses stacked up, the franchise’s off-ice mistakes increased and Chychrun was in a different role (off the top power play, starting more faceoffs in the defensive zone). I think he became unhappy with his role under coach André Tourigny and warmed to the idea of moving to a team where he would have the chance to win right away.

I have said it many times before. I don’t blame any player who isn’t willing to sacrifice three or four years of their career on a team with no chance of winning. Careers are finite.

I do expect the Coyotes to entertain more offers for Chychrun at the draft because GM Bill Armstrong told me that they would. That said, his asking price isn’t coming down and it may go up, given the deals that we saw at this year’s trade deadline.

If I were the Coyotes, I would try everything in my power to build a bridge back to Chychrun’s camp. He is an incredibly valuable asset on a team that currently has a number of nice defensive prospects, but none that you would term elite. If such overtures fail, then you have to make sure you get a king’s ransom for him at the draft. You can’t bow to external pressures to trade him. GMs have to maximize their assets. Armstrong knows this and I think he has the spine to resists any pressure to get a deal done that is not to his liking.

For you, of course. There will certainly be enough bodies coming in via the trade deadline and the draft.

Sorry, Leonardo, but I don’t do ratings. I will say this: I feel more confident in the Coyotes’ chances of getting that arena built now than I did when I published a story that reported that they were one vote short in the Tempe City Council.

You can’t have enough centers or defensemen. They need elite, impact players at both positions.

I plan to ask André Tourigny about this after the season. I can think of several examples where teams have not handed the slot to their top forward or defenseman. Crouse checks so many boxes. I do think that a player has to produce offense at a certain level to gain the respect of the entire room, but Crouse is doing that now with career-best numbers.

It’s a fair question but the surrounding cast also plays a major role. I don’t think the Coyotes’ point total next season will look much different than this season.

No. Dave Tippett is soooo done. He’s going to enjoy retirement in Arizona. Even before Edmonton fired him, he was planning to make this his last NHL season.

I don’t think anything has changed there. He is not on any lists of their top prospects.

His two-year ELC is directly tied to his age. Players who sign their first contract between the ages of 18 and 21 sign three-year ELCs. Players who are 22-23 can only sign two-year deals. The plan is for McBain to play NHL games as soon as his injury heals so he will burn the first year of his ELC. The nine-game trial does not apply here.

An Eriksson return is doubtful.

No. He was dealt because they have the chance to get a third-round pick for a guy whom they picked up off waivers.

He said all of that when I spoke to him. The only sticking point is that his camp thought he might re-sign here after talks began. They had the rug pulled out from under them somewhat unexpectedly. That may have an impact on his decision this summer.

It will depend on what other offers exist. If the Coyotes are the only team that inquires, he would certainly come back.

I’ll miss the event staff. I have come to know and befriend a lot of people, whether it’s parking attendants, elevator operators, security, Glendale police officers or press box/locker room attendants. Few of those people will make the transition to Tempe.

No. He would not be eligible for the playoffs. Plus, no team is going to pick up his $6.8-million cap hit. Not a single team.

Some things, like the two Zambonis. Definitely the workout equipment. They will need some big boxes.

I don’t know for sure. I have touched base with his coach at Minnesota State but I want to give them space because they are competing for a national championship. It’s not the appropriate time to ask.


Napkin Jaime was last seen in a dumpster in the Chicago Loop.

Less than unlikely. He won’t be back. I have confirmed that. He may have a KHL team already waiting to welcome him back, but he would prefer to remain in the NHL, per his agent.

I’m not sure that I understand the question. They are in the midst of a rebuild so everything that they are doing right now under GM Bill Armstrong is with an eye toward three to four years down the road.

I’ve got three candidates: J.J. Moser, Karel Vejmelka and Dysin Mayo. If Matias Maccelli stays he could be a fourth candidate. I should probably do a poll next month.

My guess is both. There will definitely be a pitchfork. We’ll see how they incorporate the kachina.

He’ll be a free agent; no need or opportunity for a trade.

I expect Doan to play at least three seasons at ASU. As for Guenther, my take is that a return to the WHL for one more season makes the most sense for his development. He is not AHL eligible.

Here is what prospect and college guru Chris Peters told me about him (I have also seen Smith play): “Nathan Smith is one of the best players in NCAA this year. He’s legit. I think Winnipeg was pretty bummed to learn he would not sign with them. I think literally every team that had a free contract would try to sign him if they could. He’s skilled, disciplined and a lot stronger off the puck than he has been at any point in his career. Of the college guys that moved (at the trade deadline), those were the two best (Jack McBain being the other one), with Smith being the best.”

I doubt that any team would risk an international incident to sneak players out of Russia. That’s crazy talk.

When I checked in a week and a half ago, everything was progressing well. He had a routine visit with a surgeon and everything looked great. The plan was to start skating by the end of this month or early April. Barring any setbacks, he should be ready for the start of camp.

I have also heard issues expressed on the other end of the size spectrum. Sorry.

I’m not saying it will happen, but if I had to bet on one not currently with the club, I’d say Jan Jeník. We’ll see what Matias Maccelli and Jack McBain can show the rest of the season, and we’ll what happens in contract talks with Nathan Smith.

It’s undetermined. The Tempe City Council is expected to discuss the matter in April, but no date has been set for a vote.

No idea. With so little information coming out of council, it’s silly to speculate.

They count against the cap, but LTIR allows teams to exceed the cap. Rather than me trying to explain such a complex concept, here are two excellent explanations for you:

From Cap Friendly.

From Puck Pedia.

Both sides are content to let the season play out before opening discussions.

GM Bill Armstrong has noted before that the Coyotes won’t really know what they have in Vejmelka until he is a year into his NHL career. He has had some elite performances and half of his starts are quality starts, but he has also had several really bad efforts. Consistency is the hardest thing to achieve for an NHL player.

Vejmelka will also have to adjust to NHL teams’ scouting of him. Once he has been in the league for a significant period of time (he’s close), teams will be able to pick apart his weaknesses and exploit them. He’ll have to course correct to shore up those areas.

McBain will play for the Coyotes later this season, assuming his injury heals. Guenther could play next season, but my best guess is the 2023-24 season.

Awoo to you, too, Ian.

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