The Arizona Coyotes are one season in to playing head coach Rick Tocchet’s system and things may be turning around at last. The club went 17-12-3 after the All-Star break last season and they’ll be looking for more of the same in 2018-2019.
Scoring was, naturally, an issue. They finished 30th last season in goals with just 2.51 per game and attempted to fill in some gaps this summer, snagging Alex Galchenyuk in a trade that sent Max Domi to the Montreal Canadiens. They also signed Michael Grabner.
Galchenyuk had 51 points in 82 games for the Habs last season. He’s just 24 and has a much higher offensive ceiling than Domi, which makes this an excellent one-for-one swap. The Coyotes will play Galchenyuk at centre, his natural position. He’ll anchor the second line, which is a good thing because he scored 30 goals at that position in 2015-2016.
Grabner is no slouch. He’s been a bit of an unsettled journeyman as of late, but he scored 27 goals last season and 27 goals the season before that. The 30-year-old is capable of putting together 25-goal seasons on average.
On paper, these moves instantly boost Arizona’s offensive fortunes.
They did lose penalty killer Jordan Martinook and defenceman Luke Schenn, but the contract to Kevin Connauton made the latter an expendable piece of the puzzle.
The Coyotes are looking forward to the arrival of Lawson Crouse, who’s been on the bubble for some time. Crouse only skated in 11 games last season after posting 72 games the season prior, so he’s far from a sure bet. The 21-year-old is a good fit for the fourth line, where he can put together a physical element to make up for the absence of Zac Rinaldo.
Speaking of arrivals, 2018-2019 could at last be the season for Dylan Strome to unleash in the desert. He played most of last season in Tuscon, but he did look good on the big club when he was called up in March. If there is an issue, it’s that Strome is a natural centre on a team full of natural centres.
The Coyotes also made some money move this summer, absorbing the contract of Marian Hossa in a deal that secured them some nice compensation. They’ll be able to slip his cash on the LTIR, which frees up cap space and allows them to make moves throughout the year.
As strange as it seems to say, the Coyotes are well-positioned for the 2018-2019 NHL season. They’ve made sharp moves, which bodes well for the desert dogs. If they can patch together their offence and play Tocchet’s tempo, Arizona may surprise some people this coming year.