Coyotes insider Sarah McLellan looks at the plus and minus in the 5-4 win over the Devils on Saturday.
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Coach Dave Tippett, goalie Mike Smith, winger Tobias Rieder and defenseman Anthony DeAngelo react to the 5-4 win on Saturday. Sarah McLellan/azcentral sports
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Coyotes insider Sarah McLellan looks at the plus and minus in the 3-2 overtime loss to the Senators.
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Coach Dave Tippett, defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, winger Lawson Crouse and winger Brendan Perlini react to the 3-2 overtime loss.
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Coyotes winger Radim Vrbata is set to play his 1,000th game Thursday against the Senators.
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The Arizona Coyotes Foundation held their annual golf tournament for charity at the Whirlwind Golf Club at Wild Horse Pass in Chandler, Tuesday, March 7, 2017. Players Shane Doan, Max Domi and Brendan Perlini comment.
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Coyotes insider Sarah McLellan looks at the plus and minus in the 2-1 loss to the Hurricanes on Sunday in Glendale.
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Coach Dave Tippett, goalie Mike Smith, winger Max Domi and defenseman Jakob Chychrun react to the 2-1 loss on Sunday in Glendale. Sarah McLellan/azcentral sports
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Coyotes insider Sarah McLellan looks at the plus and minus in the 4-2 win over the Hurricanes.
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Coach Dave Tippett, captain Shane Doan, center Jordan Martinook and goalie Louis Domingue react to the win.
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Coyotes insider Sarah McLellan looks at the plus and minus in the 6-3 loss to the Sabres on Thursday.
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Coach Dave Tippett, defenseman Alex Goligoski, winger Tobias Rieder and winger Teemu Pulkkinen react to the loss on Thursday. Sarah McLellan/azcentral sports
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Coyotes General Manager John Chayka, winger Radim Vrbata and captain Shane Doan discuss the two players staying with Arizona.
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Coyotes insider Sarah McLellan looks at the plus and minus in the 4-1 loss to the Bruins.
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Coach Dave Tippett, captain Shane Doan, defenseman Jakob Chychrun and goalie Mike Smith react to center Alexander Burmistrov’s injury in a 4-1 loss to the Bruins. Sarah McLellan/azcentral sports
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azcentral sports’ Jay Dieffenbach and azcentral’s Craig Harris discuss the latest on the Coyotes’ search for an arena and the Diamondbacks’ feud with the county over Chase Field.
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The Coyotes react to the trade that sent center Martin Hanzal and winger Ryan White to the Wild.
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Coyotes insider Sarah McLellan looks at the plus and minus in the 3-2 win over the Sabres, Feb. 26, 2017. (Sarah McLellan/azcentral sports)
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Coyotes coach Dave Tippett, winger Radim Vrbata, captain Shane Doan and winger Jamie McGinn react to the 3-2 win, Feb. 26, 2017. (Sarah McLellan/azcentral sports)
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Coyotes insider Sarah McLellan looks at the plus and minus in the 5-2 loss to the Stars, Feb. 24, 2017. (Sarah McLellan/azcentral sports)
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Coyotes coach Dave Tippett, goalie Louis Domingue, defenseman Alex Goligoski and winger Radim Vrbata react to the loss against the Stars, Feb. 24, 2017. (Sarah McLellan/azcentral sports)
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Coyotes insider Sarah McLellan looks at the plus and minus in the 6-3 loss to the Blackhawks, Feb. 23, 2017. (Sarah McLellan/azcentral sports)
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Coyotes coach Dave Tippett, defenseman Jakob Chychrun, winger Ryan White and winger Radim Vrbata react to the 6-3 loss to the Blackhawks, Feb. 23, 2017. (Sarah McLellan/azcentral sports)
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Coyotes insider Sarah McLellan looks at the plus and minus in the 3-2 win over the Ducks on Monday.
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Coach Dave Tippett, goalie Marek Langhamer, winger Radim Vrbata and defenseman Jakob Chychrun react to Monday’s win in Glendale. Sarah McLellan/azcentral sports
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Coyotes insider Sarah McLellan looks at the plus and minus in the 4-1 loss to the Sharks.
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Coyotes coach Dave Tippett, captain Shane Doan, center Martin Hanzal and goalie Mike Smith react to a loss against the Sharks, Feb. 18, 2017. (Sarah McLellan/azcentral sports)
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Coyotes insider Sarah McLellan looks at the plus and minus in the 5-3 win over the Kings. (Sarah McLellan/azcentral sports)
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Coyotes’ coach Dave Tippett, winger Jordan Martinook, winger Brendan Perlini and goalie Mike Smith react to a win against the Kings, Feb. 16, 2017. (Sarah McLellan/azcentral sports)
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Coyotes insider Sarah McLellan looks at the plus and minus in the 5-2 loss to the Oilers.
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Coach Dave Tippett, goalie Louis Domingue, center Martin Hanzal, defenseman Alex Goligoski and defenseman Luke Schenn react to the 5-2 loss. Sarah McLellan/azcentral sports
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Coyotes insider Sarah McLellan looks at the plus and minus in the 5-0 win over the Flames.
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Coyotes coach Dave Tippett, goalie Mike Smith, center Christian Dvorak and winger Ryan White talk about the Coyotes’ 5-0 win over the Flames on Monday. Sarah McLellan/azcentral sports
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Coyotes insider Sarah McLellan looks at the plus and minus in the 4-3 overtime win over the Penguins.
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Coach Dave Tippett, defenseman Connor Murphy, center Martin Hanzal and goalie Mike Smith react to the 4-3 win.
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Penguins captain Sidney Crosby is only two points shy of 1,000 for his careee entering Saturday’s game against the Coyotes. Video: Sarah McLellan/azcentral sports
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The Washington Capitals hosted United Arab Emirates native and hockey phenom Fatima Al Ali.
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Arizona Cardinals’ Larry Fitzgerald skates for the first time with Arizona Coyotes’ Shane Doan. (Rob Schumacher/azcentral sports)
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For the first time, the Coyotes brought their dads on a road trip.
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Coyotes goalie Mike Smith reflects on his experience at the NHL All-Star Game on Monday. Sarah McLellan/azcentral sports
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Coyotes captain Shane Doan discusses the possibility of seeking a trade this season. Sarah McLellan/azcentral sports
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Sarah McLellan’s plus-minus against the Devils
Coyotes hold off Devils in third period
Sarah McLellan’s plus-minus against the Senators
Senators rally past Coyotes for overtime win
Coyotes winger Radim Vrbata reaches 1,000-game milestone
Arizona Coyotes Foundation Golf Tournament 2017
Sarah McLellan’s plus-minus against the Hurricanes
Hurricanes rally past Coyotes with late third-period goal
Sarah McLellan’s plus-minus against the Hurricanes
Coyotes react to road win over Hurricanes
Sarah McLellan’s plus-minus against the Sabres
Coyotes react to their 6-3 loss to the Sabres
Radim Vrbata, Shane Doan remain with Coyotes after NHL trade deadline
Sarah McLellan’s plus-minus against the Bruins
Coyotes react to Burmistrov hit in loss to Bruins
Shot Clock: Could they leave? Latest on Coyotes’ arena situation
Coyotes react to Martin Hanzal trade
Sarah McLellan’s plus-minus against the Sabres
Coyotes rally past Sabres in third period
Sarah McLellan’s plus-minus against the Stars
Stars rally past Coyotes for 5-2 win
Sarah McLellan’s plus-minus against the Blackhawks
Coyotes react to 6-3 loss to Blackhawks
Sarah McLellan’s plus-minus against the Ducks
Coyotes hold off Ducks for 3-2 win
Sarah McLellan’s plus-minus against the Sharks
Coyotes react to 4-1 loss to Sharks
Sarah McLellan’s plus-minus against the Kings
Arizona Coyotes hold off Los Angeles Kings in third for 5-3 win
Sarah McLellan’s plus-minus against the Oilers
Oilers overwhelm Coyotes 5-2
Sarah McLellan’s plus-minus against the Flames
Coyotes break out in win over Flames
Sarah McLellan’s plus-minus against the Penguins
Coyotes react to overtime win over the Penguins
Sidney Crosby closing in on 1,000 career points
Hockey phenom from UAE takes the ice with the Capitals
Arizona Cardinals Larry Fitzgerald skates for the first time with Shane Doan
Coyotes bring their dads on the road to San Jose
Coyotes goalie Mike Smith on memorable All-Star Game experience
Coyotes captain Shane Doan not ruling out trade possibility
The title has transferred ownership over the years, moving from Jeremy Roenick to Daymond Langkow and on to Mike Ribeiro – for just a season – and then Antoine Vermette.
Martin Hanzal was the latest to hold the distinction as the Coyotes’ No. 1 center, sitting at the top of the team’s depth chart until he was included in a trade with the Wild before the deadline last month that fetched a collection of draft picks and a minor-leaguer.
Addressing Hanzal’s absence looms as one of the organization’s most intriguing decisions of the offseason and while they have opportunities with the draft, trade market and free-agent pool in addition to looking internally, the Coyotes may very well discover few options exist to solidify the position.
“You look at it right now,” coach Dave Tippett said, “(and) you’d have to say it’s a work in progress.”
No generational talents in draft
Many of the top prospects in the 2017 draft class are centers with Nolan Patrick headlining the group as the projected No. 1 pick.
“He’s an exceptionally smart player,” said Craig Button, TSN’s Director of Scouting and a former general manager of the Calgary Flames. “He can skate. He can make plays. He can shoot the puck.”
Nico Hischier is the second-best player in the draft, in Button’s eyes, and reminds Button of Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg. Gabriel Vilardi seems to always be around the puck and while he isn’t the most fluid skater, Button said, he can create scoring chances.
Elias Pettersson has strong pucks skills, Cody Glass makes plays and Michael Rasmussen is a goal scorer.
While it’s possible one or two of those centers play in the NHL next season, Button said, none are talents like Toronto’s Auston Matthews and Edmonton’s Connor McDavid, and they aren’t expected to make an impact in their debuts like those two have.
“I don’t see anyone close to that,” Button said.
Limited trade options
Without any immediate difference makers in the draft, and since they’re holding a pair of first-rounders after acquiring Minnesota’s in the Hanzal trade, trading a pick may be a decision the Coyotes consider.
Currently, they’re positioned to have the second-best odds of winning the draft lottery and if that order prevails, they would land the No. 2 pick – a selection that may interest other teams looking to make a swap.
“There might be an option to use that second pick to trade it for an outright player, a more mature center in terms of teams that are up against the salary cap or a situation like that,” Button said.
The Avalanche’s Matt Duchene has been speculated as trade bait. His production has dipped this season, but the 26-year-old still has loads of potential and is only one season removed from scoring 30 goals. Through his first seven full seasons, he’s buried at least 20 five times.
One pro scout mentioned the Oilers’ Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as another possible trade target, and it makes sense why with Edmonton maybe needing to move out a forward to re-sign McDavid. Nugent-Hopkins, the No. 1 pick from 2011, has scored more than 20 only once in his career, but has playmaking ability and a two-way awareness.
Other players not appearing to be on the trade block may emerge as movable pieces with high picks or prized prospects the potential asking price. Still, these transaction are rare with only a handful of the NHL’s current top point-producing middle men – like Dallas’ Tyler Seguin, Nashville’s Ryan Johansen and Anaheim’s Ryan Kesler – having been traded.
“People lock them up, and they don’t want to give them up,” the scout said.
Shallow free-agent pool
Dipping into free agency is another possibility, and the most appealing center is a familiar name with Hanzal situated as the top target even though his offensive totals aren’t reflective of a No. 1, despite satisfying that role for the Coyotes.
With the Wild, he’s a No. 3 and that or a No. 2 spot is probably where he’d slot on a contending team. But his size, faceoff prowess and matchup style are no doubt coveted skills.
“I just don’t see there being more out there past him,” the scout said. “There’s certainly nobody that’s going to change the dynamics of your team out there.”
BICKLEY: NHL’s threats backfiring badly
A few other high-profile centers are on the brink of unrestricted free agency – like the Sharks’ Joe Thornton and Predators captain Mike Fisher – but it seems likely they’d re-up with their current teams.
Brian Boyle, who was flipped from the Lightning to the Maple Leafs before the trade deadline, is poised to hit the market; the 32-year-old has scored 20 goals just once in his career and hasn’t racked up more than 25 points since 2011-12. The Penguins’ Nick Bonino is also on an expiring contract but is three seasons removed from his best production (22 goals and 49 points).
Other pending free agents include former Coyotes Sam Gagner and Daniel Winnik and the Oilers’ David Desharnais.
“There’s just not a lot out there for centermen,” the scout said.
Pipeline has depth candidates
Arizona does have prospects in the pipeline who may be ready for NHL duty, but expecting No. 1 center contributions is likely a stretch at this point.
Dylan Strome lasted just seven games this season before getting returned to junior and although he’s dominated the Ontario Hockey League upon his return, translating that skill to the pro ranks clearly isn’t always easy.
Clayton Keller was drafted as a center, but Tippett envisions him more as a winger. In the minors, Ryan MacInnis continues to grow his game and Tyler Gaudet has limited NHL experience. Laurent Dauphin is close to being an NHL regular, Tippett said, but he plays a depth role.
Christian Dvorak has made strong strides this season. Brad Richardson is also under contract, and Jordan Martinook (a pending restricted free agent) has shown he can slide over from wing.
But none appear legit candidates to fill the void left by Hanzal nor do they seem ready to rank as a consensus No. 1 in the league.
Timing, asset value and alternatives were identified as factors in the Hanzal trade with the Wild by General Manager John Chayka, who said, “At this point in time, it was better for the future of the organization to get some picks, look to kind of continue to grow that.”
Asked if the price to keep Hanzal was a reason why the team didn’t retain him, Chayka said, “It’s all part of the puzzle,” before explaining, “That’s not to say it was unrealistic or unfair. He’s a 6-foot-6 center. That’s a rare commodity.”
Chayka gave a similar response when asked if Hanzal’s injury history played a role, saying, “It’s all a part of it.” And in regards to what Hanzal’s analytics might have suggested, Chayka said, “He’s a great player. That’s not the debate whatsoever.”
Who the Coyotes find to permanently take Hanzal’s spot remains to be seen, and it certainly looks like it could be a challenge to acquire somebody who fits the bill as a viable No. 1 for next season judging by the possibilities available to the team.
But securing that player is a necessary step to completing the team’s rebuild and emerging as a Stanley Cup contender.
“That has to get done,” Tippett said. “That’s something that has to be in place.”
Avalanche at Coyotes
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Gila River Arena.
TV/radio: Fox Sports Arizona/KMVP-FM (98.7).
Avalanche update: The Avalanche are coming off a 4-2 loss to the Senators Saturday at home. Before then, Colorado had won two straight to snap a four-game losing skid. With just 19 wins, the Avalanche sit in last place in the NHL and trail the Coyotes by 15 points for 29th. Center Nathan MacKinnon leads the team in points with 44, while center Matt Duchene has a team-best 16 goals. MacKinnon had scored in consecutive games before going pointless against the Senators. With Semyon Varlamov undergoing season-ending surgery to fix a nagging groin issue, Calvin Pickard (12-22-2 with a .908 save percentage and 2.92 goals-against average) has taken the bulk of the starts.