Arizona Coyotes: Top-line UFA scorer wishlist

As of this writing, the injury-laden Arizona Coyotes are just six points out a playoff spot in the Western Conference race. 

There is a logjam above them with the Edmonton Oilers, Anaheim Ducks, and Vancouver Canucks all jockeying for the final wild-card spot with the Dallas Stars just three points ahead of that huge pack.

Adding a scorer would help

This has been addressed before that the team has not had a 30-goal scorer since Radim Vrbata did it back in the 2011/12 season which coincidentally was the last time the Desert Dogs made the playoffs.

While having a 30-goal scorer is not a guarantee to being in the postseason competition, it certainly is a key factor. 

When you look at the Coyotes’ meager offensive statistics it becomes lucid that an offensive star player would give them a much better shot at playing beyond the regular 82-game schedule.

They are averaging just 2.58 goals a game and rank 29th in the league in that category. 

So, who’s available out there to perhaps help solve this dilemma? 

This list would be a good starting point of unrestricted free agents who could possibly be on GM John Chayka‘s wishlist. While these are merely projections, these players could really improve the team significantly.

Whether they are a feasible choice or not is another question.

Artemi Panarin – LW, Columbus Blue Jackets

Panarin has a cap hit of $6 million but one can expect that salary to escalate immensely with his recent success. He has averaged 78 points over the last three seasons and has twice eclipsed the 30-goal mark.

He already has 18 goals, 34 assists in 44 games including five power play tallies.

His explosiveness has to attract any team thinking of grabbing him away from the Blue Jackets. The Columbus club will have $28.9 million of salary cap space to attempt to convince Panarin to stay. 

He would definitely upgrade the Coyotes’ top line and imagine Panarin on a line with Clayton Keller, or Nick Schmaltz. They could work some magical plays and Panarin would be an instant star player in the desert.

Now, it probably won’t happen but it’s worth putting him on the ‘wishlist’ at this point.

I don’t see the Blue Jackets moving Panarin… not goin’ happen!

Chance of coming to Arizona – 10%

Mark Stone – RW, Ottawa Senators

Stone is earning a hefty $7.35 million on a one-year contract, which could mean he’s looking to move on if not given a multi-year deal this time around.

It may be a bit much to pay a player who hasn’t averaged over 30 goals a game in his NHL career. He is however on a pace to score over 30 goals this season with 20 tallies in 46 games. 

He could add some scoring abilities to the Coyotes’ lineup and seems more of a possibility via trade or free agency than Panarin. He is a right-hand shot and the brother of former defenseman Michael Stone who played for the Coyotes from 2014-17 before being traded to the Calgary Flames.

Chance of coming to Arizona – 25%

Matt Duchene – C, Ottawa Senators

The Ottawa Senators have not one, but two-star players who could walk as an unrestricted free agent. Matt Duchene is certainly a quality player who could immediately fit right into the Coyotes’ lineup as a top line player.

He’s a center and we know how GM John Chayka likes centers. More than that he has some excellent statistics which could augment the Arizona offense.

He has 18 goals, 24 assists in 37 games, including four power-play goals. He shoots at an extremely attractive 20 percent ratio and is awesome in the faceoff circle winning 52.9 percent over his 10-year NHL career.

Not bad.

He currently is ending his five-year $30 million contract so he won’t come cheap… and shouldn’t. He seems to be able to blend well with a team being built on youth and speed. Duchene can fly.

The Senators will have $34.8 million to attempt to sign both Duchene AND Stone… can they do it?

Chance of coming to Arizona – 35%

Jeff Skinner – LW, Buffalo Sabres

Out of all the UFA’s on the board, this player may be on Chayka’s radar more than the others. 

Jeff Skinner has emerged as an offensive force for the surging Buffalo Sabres. His 30 goals, 14 assists in 46 games has ignited the Sabres chances at being a playoff team for the first time since 2010/11. 

Right now the Sabres have a 45.7 percent chance of making the playoffs and they may not want to give up Skinner for that reason.

With his scoring prowess, it would seem that the Coyotes would do all they possibly can to get him to join them in the desert. 

Remember it’s been a LONG time since the team had a 30-goal scorer and Skinner already has 30 to his credit with 36 games remaining!

That kind of offensive firepower will take the Coyotes to the playoffs and beyond.

Granted Skinner has had some instant chemistry with star player Jack Eichel and the Sabres will have cap space of $28.5 million to work out a deal.

The Coyotes MUST be in the hunt to bring him to Arizona! 

Chance of coming to Arizona – 55%

Joe Pavelski – C, San Jose Sharks

Joe Pavelski has been a Coyotes’ killer most of his career. He thrives on playing against them, and having him on the Coyotes’ side of the ice would be a welcome addition.

He currently has an amazing 54 points against Arizona

While that may not be an incentive to try an sign the veteran, his offensive numbers certainly should be the reason. He has 343 career goals, with 394 assists in 396 games. He also is skilled on the power play scoring 117 career man-advantage tallies.

Needless to say, he would provide some excellent veteran guidance to a young team like the Coyotes. At 34-years-old he can still play as attributed to his 26 goals and 40 points in 48 games this season.

The San Jose Sharks will have $21.9 million to spend on him to stay but don’t forget that the Sharks are wanting to keep their prize player Erik Karlsson whom they gave up five players to acquire from the Ottawa Senators.

Negotiations will be interesting and Karlsson is playing it close to the vest as to what he may do. IF the Sharks must pay out a contract close to that of Connor McDavid, then keeping Pavelski ($6M cap hit) and Joe Thornton (if he doesn’t retire) will put a strain on their salary budget.

Chance of coming to Arizona – 30%

Anders Lee – C, New York Islanders

Talk about an impact offensive force (6’3″, 231lbs) Anders Lee would be just what the Coyotes need to add to their offense. He had 40 goals last seaon with 16 this season which puts him on a path for 30 goals this season.

With his size and youth (28-years-old), he has to be on the wishlist of the Coyotes as they ponder who to go after.

It seems that the Islanders feel exactly the same about keeping him as he is their first priority to get an agreed-upon contract before the season ends. 

With both Jordan Eberle and Nelson Brock along with Valtteri Filppula all becoming UFA’s, there may not be much left to consider a contract that Lee would be interested in signing.

That is up to the GM, Lou Lamoriello and if he can’t figure it out then the Islanders may lose Lee.

And after losing their former captain, John Tavares, he won’t want to lose his replacement, now would he?

Chance of coming to Arizona – 20%

Wayne Simmonds – RW/LW, Philadelphia Flyers

Wayne Simmonds has been rumored to be on the trading block for a while and he has a reasonable salary cap hit at just $3.975 million. 

He is still just 30-years-old and a physical presence in front of the opposing team’s net. He knows how to screen the other team’s goalie and is waiting there eagerly for a rebound. 

He has scored 20+ goals four times including last season when he lit the light 24 times for the Philadelphia Flyers. In addition, he has had two 30+ goal seasons to add to his effectiveness.

He’s the type of player you hate to play against and wish he was on your team. 

The Arizona Coyotes could use a tough guy to protect smaller players like Keller who has been noticed by the opposing teams and try to stop his effectiveness with their physical play.

Not if Wayne Simmonds is there to stand up for him.

Chance of coming to Arizona – 30%

Final analysis

This is quite a wishlist and of course, many things must happen for any of these talented players to possibly wear a Coyotes’ uniform… but it’s a start.

THEY NEED OFFENSE DESPERATELY!

These players provide it. I’ll leave the details of how that happens by trade or free agency up to the expert GM John Chayka and his coaching staff.

OR… there’s always a chance that he may be holding all his wild cards for the chance at landing Auston Matthews.

Now that would be something else!

What is your assessment as to which of the above listed UFA’s may land in Arizona… if any? Let us know in the comments section and if you like our site please send the link to your friends and family!