According to Scott Burnside of The Athletic, the Arizona Coyotes may have found themselves in a situation where the most logical move to make is trading goaltender Darcy Kuemper. After an offseason that included Kuemper’s name possibly being out there on the market, the Coyotes elected not to move the netminder, but three factors may have changed the team’s perspective on that decision.
Trading Kuemper won’t be an easy thing to do. It essentially means the team is writing off the season and once you move a netminder like that, organization’s almost immediately need to start looking for a netminder to replace them.
That said, Burnside notes a handful of reasons the organization, particularly GM Bill Armstrong, may not see much other choice. And, from Kuemper’s perspective, he would probably welcome a chance to win. “I love Kuemper, and honestly, he needs to get out of Arizona before it becomes stale and he starts trying too hard,” one source said.
The Unexpected Success of Wild and Kings
The surprising play of the Minnesota Wild and Los Angeles Kings has left the Coyotes uncertain about their ability to squeak into the playoffs this season. Arizona figured they could work their way in as part of a top-heavy West Division but even the lesser teams aren’t out of it.
Currently in fifth place, they certainly aren’t out of the hunt, but a few losses could put them well behind the pack and the team doesn’t want to look back and regret having made a move.
The Lack of Draft Picks
Armstrong and the Coyotes were penalized a first- and second-round draft pick for breaking draft combine rules. Then, after the club made a glaring error by selecting Mitchell Miller in the 2020 draft, the team doesn’t have much in the cupboard if their intention is to try and rebuild in any way.
A Kuemper trade could change things rather quickly. He’s worth something on the marketplace and goaltenders have been a hot commodity on the waiver wire this season. If Kuemper becomes available, teams will help Arizona restock the shelves.
Coyotes Don’t Have the Funds
Arizona is one of many teams in the NHL that has been hit harder by the pandemic than most. As such, part of Armstrong’s job was to keep an eye on costs. Considering the hockey team was already in tough financially, sacrifices likely need to be made.
The team already shopped captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson and his $8.25 million cap hit in the offseason. A trade never materialized. Money is probably the reason Kuemper’s name was out there in the first place. A $4.5 million cap hit, if the Coyotes don’t have to pay him, it certainly helps their bottom line.
Not an Easy Decision
Kuemper will be essential to any hope the Coyotes have of making the playoffs. But, the goaltender does not possess trade protection and a fair salary with an extra year on his current deal could produce significant return. No doubt, a team like Carolina, Colorado, or even Edmonton would be interested.
If the Coyotes can fetch a first-round pick in a season where the draft may be delayed, it’s logical to assume Armstrong would give that decision heavy consideration.
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