As we continue through our season preview of the teams in the Central Division, it’s time to catch up with the teams that weren’t divisional foes last season. We’ll start with a new addition to the Central following the league’s realignment to accommodate the Seattle Kraken. That team is the Arizona Coyotes.
Last season: 24-26-6 (54 points), fifth place in West Division
Key losses: D Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D Niklas Hjalmarsson, F Conor Garland, G Antti Ranta
Key additions: F Antoine Roussel, F Jay Beagle, F Ryan Dzingel D Shayne Gostisbehere, G Josef Korenar
Among the many themes and storylines heading into the 2021-22 NHL season, the topic most associated with the Arizona Coyotes is moving.
With the addition of the NHL’s newest franchise, the Seattle Kraken, the Coyotes will be moving to the Central Division. The team will be moving back to their original look by fully embracing their 90’s Kachina motif. In one way or another, Arizona will be moving to a new arena after the ‘21-22 season, as the Gila River Arena — its home since 2003 — will not be renewing their contract. Most notably, the Coyotes have moved on from many big names on their roster by moving players and contracts to other teams.
That’s right: the Coyotes are going full rebuild.
Gone are Coyotes mainstays such as former team captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson, three-time Stanley Cup Champion Niklas Hjalmarsson and veteran goaltender Antti Raanta. And while star forward Phil Kessel remains on the Coyotes’ payroll, he is expected to be moved at the trade deadline as his contract expires at the end of the season. Staying in rebuild mode, the Coyotes have acquired league veterans Jay Beagle, Loui Eriksson and Antoine Roussell, whose contracts all come off the books in the near future. They’ve also signed a bundle of players — including Chicago-area native Ryan Dzingel — strictly to one-year contracts.
While the Coyotes are expected to build their team around their star forward and 2016 No. 7 overall pick Clayton Keller, he’s not the only new face to keep an eye on in the desert this season. Among the young talent acquired, goaltender Josef Korenar shows promise in net and he’ll be splitting goaltending duties with veteran Carter Hutton. Joining the ‘Yotes blueline will be defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, who is looking to reboot his career and get back to the early success he enjoyed in Philadelphia.
The Coyotes are blowing it up in a way that allows for them to be free of any bad contracts and start fresh. They’re moving into a new era. Hopefully one that doesn't move out of Arizona, because I’d hate to see those beautifully ugly 90’s sweaters go.