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Duclair signing wraps up busy summer for Coyotes

Dinur via Flickr


Right winger’s one-year deal final piece in Arizona’s offseason puzzle

The Arizona Coyotes signed right winger Anthony Duclair to a one-year deal on Sunday, wrapping up the busiest offseason for the franchise since they moved to the desert. The signing comes four days before the Coyotes open rookie camp at the Gila River Arena on Thursday.

The Coyotes’ offseason flurry began when the team announced they would not be bringing back Shane Doan in June. The longtime captain chose retirement over playing for another franchise last week, despite wanting to play another season.

Goaltender Mike Smith was dealt to Calgary the same weekend Doan was told he would not be brought back. Dave Tippett and the Coyotes mutually agreed to part ways on June 22 instead of having the bench boss back for a ninth season. These changes signified a new era for the struggling franchise.

June was a time of cleaning out for the team, making July a time to fill the open positions. Prior to the draft, the Coyotes struck trades with the Chicago Blackhawks for defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson and with the New York Rangers for forward Derek Stepan and goaltender Antti Raanta.

The trades addressed three key issues:

  1. Hjalmarsson is a top-pairing defenseman that can play with Oilver Ekman-Larsson
  2. Stepan is a top center who can pair with the young wingers
  3. Raanta is a long-term solution in net

Changes also made off the ice

The Coyotes conducted a coaching search to find the right man to pair with the new group. The team tabbed Rick Tocchet to be the new bench boss on July 11. Tocchet was an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Penguins, where he won the Stanley Cup in 2016 and 2017.

Tocchet has experience coaching talented veterans like Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel. He can also work with the younger guys, like he did with Jake Guentzel. The organization is hoping Tocchet can use what he learned in Pittsburgh to develop their young core.

The Coyotes’ offseason also included a large front office move. The team hired former ASU athletic director Steve Patterson as president and CEO the day after the Tocchet hiring. Patterson has held upper management positions in both professional and college sports, and Arizona is hoping he is a big boost in their quest for a new arena.

The Outlook

A promising season starts with rookie camp, which opens Thursday. All eyes will be on former top-10 picks Clayton Keller and Dylan Strome. Keller picked up two assists in three games last season and sat in the press box for four games to watch and learn. Strome is the only top-5 pick from the 2014 draft to not stay a season at the NHL level. He will try to avoid the label of “bust” with a breakout season.

It is a fresh start for the Coyotes. The organization let go the last of the key pieces of their last playoff run in 2012. Arizona brought in guys, both on and off the ice, that fit the direction of the team. The fan base is excited to see the result of the Coyotes’ offseason. The future is shining bright in the Valley, and this upcoming season looks to be the start of sustained success.