Coyotes Busy Offseason Continues

Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP

Ever since Bill Armstrong was named General Manager of the Arizona Coyotes just a few weeks ago, he has been hard at work. 

It’s not surprising for someone, who in his introductory press conference, stated that he’d only be making trips between his house and Gila River Arena, and there wouldn’t be any sight-seeing of the Grand Canyon State. 

There has been shuffling in the hockey operations department, a few offseason moves, and now the NHL Draft is later this afternoon. Here’s an update on the happenings of the Coyotes over the last few weeks. 

Additions In Player Development/Scouting

When he was first introduced with the franchise, Armstrong made it clear that changes were likely to take place. He needed to find his own people. One of Armstrong’s biggest strengths coming into this role as GM was his ability to find talent through drafts. 

Though he won’t be able to directly participate in this year’s NHL Draft due to an agreement with the St. Louis Blues, Armstrong has still been changing the outlook of the Coyotes player development and scouting department for future years ahead. 

First, he brought in Brian Daccord, who was named Special Assistant to GM and Director of Goalie Operations on Sep. 25. If the last name sounds familiar to hockey fans in Arizona, it’s because Daccord is the father of former Arizona State star netminder Joey Daccord, who led the Sun Devils to their first-ever NCAA Tournament as a Mike Richter Finalist and is now in the Ottawa Senators organization. 

Daccord is a goaltender specialist who was formerly with the Toronto Maple Leafs doing scouting and player development. In addition to Daccord, Armstrong also brought in Darryl Plandowski, Ryan Jankowski, and Cory Banika. 

All four new members of the pack will have important roles in developing and bringing in young talent. Banika comes over with Armstrong from St. Louis, and he will serve as an amateur scout in an important region of junior hockey in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). 

Furthermore, Plandowski is the new Director of Amateur Scouting coming over from the 2020 Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning, where he worked for the previous 12 years. As for Jankowski, he is the new Associate Director of Amateur Scouting, working previously for the Buffalo Sabres the last two years. 

True to his word about bringing in people to seek out talent, Armstrong appears to have delivered that with the new shake-ups in the scouting and hockey operations department. 

“This is a complex, complicated job, but it’s also simple,” said Armstrong when he was introduced on Sep. 22. “You hire the right people, they find the right players, you stack good player on good player, and the next thing you know you’re winning.”

Players Moved, Re-signed

Along with changes in the scouting department, the Coyotes also made roster moves over the last few weeks. Most recently, re-signing defensemen Ilya Lybushkin and Kyle Capobianco. 

Lybushkin was in and out of the Coyotes lineup and is a physical stay-at-home d-man, while Capobianco led Tucson Roadrunners (Coyotes AHL affiliate) blueliners in points last season. He made brief appearances with the Coyotes at the NHL level. Both players signed to one-way deals, with Capobianco’s contract lasting two years while Lybushkin is on a one-year. 

They were bargains as well, as according to CapFriendly, Lybushkin’s one-year deal is worth $1,000,000 and Capobianco’s two-year contract is worth $700,000 in 2021 and $850,000 in 2022. 

“We are very pleased to re-sign Ilya and Kyle,” said Armstrong in a release from the team. “Ilya is a tough, physical defenseman and Kyle is an excellent skater and a skilled blueliner. We look forward to having them as part of our corps of defensemen next season.”

It’s worth noting that with the signings, captain and defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson has been in trade rumors since the conclusion of the Coyotes season. The 29-year-old’s contract runs through 2026-27 and both the Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins have had significant interest in OEL, according to many reports. It’s food for thought with the signing of Lybushkin and Capobianco. 

Aside from the blue line, Armstrong also placed forward Michael Grabner on waivers and his contract was bought out. Grabner delivered memorable goals in the Coyotes play-in round against the Nashville Predators, but he had been a healthy scratch for a majority of games during the regular season due to a scary eye injury that had been ongoing since Dec. 2018. 

NHL Draft

With no first, second, or third round draft picks due to trades and a violation of combine scouting rules, the Coyotes don’t have a draft pick in today’s NHL Draft. 

The team’s last two first-round picks have been Swedish defenseman Victor Soderstrom in 2019 and Canadian forward Barrett Hayton in 2018, who made his pro debut this past season. And speaking of Hayton, the star of the NHL Draft tomorrow will be his old teammate from World Juniors playing for Team Canada – Alexis Lafreniere. 

A world-class talent, Lafreniere is a consensus No. 1 overall pick that will be going to the New York Rangers later this afternoon.

A captain on Team Canada, Hayton played on the same line with the phenom in this past year’s World Juniors, and they helped bring home a gold medal. Lafreniere (No. 11 in the video below) assisted on four of Hayton’s six goals in the tournament, including three primary assists. 

The first round of the draft is at 4 p.m. local time later this afternoon on NBC Sports Network and rounds 2-7 are tomorrow beginning at 8:30 a.m. on NHL Network.