The rebuild in the desert has gone on for a while, but with all of the draft picks and good prospects they’ve acquired, there’s an end in sight. The Arizona Coyotes aren’t yet ready to come out of their rebuild as they have accumulated 22 draft picks over the next three drafts. With the players they currently have in their organization and the development time, they’re still looking at four or so years left before competing. That being said, no team will return with the exact same roster as they did the previous season, so let’s take a look at three Coyotes who won’t be back in 2023-24.
The Coyotes found a diamond in the rough when they threw Karel Vejmelka into the fire. He has handled the starting job in Arizona amazingly as he has single-handedly won games for the team and allowed them to stay in almost every game. That being said, that’s not exactly what management wants right now as they are in the middle of a rebuild and need high draft picks. The 2023 Draft is especially important as there appear to be can’t-miss future stars at the top of it. With all the winning the Coyotes have done, in part thanks to Vejmelka’s play in net, their chances of getting the first overall pick continue to drop.
The Coyotes were taking calls on their starter before the trade deadline. On a contender, Vejmelka could contend for the starting job or be a great 1A or 1B netminder. His contract is very good and affordable as he still has two more years left at a $2.725 million average annual value (AAV) cap hit. Many, if not all teams, could fit that under their cap. There wasn’t very much movement in net at this past deadline, but the offseason could see more goaltenders change teams. With a couple of young goaltenders behind Vejmelka and the rebuild not expected to be over in the next two years, the best course of action would be to trade him for a first-rounder and more if they aren’t going to wait for a whole extra year to try and sign him long-term.
Brett Ritchie is a fourth liner and fringe NHLer at best. He is a nine-year veteran of the NHL, but hasn’t been able to stick with one team in the latter half of his career. He has also only reached the 10-point mark twice, both coming in his first four seasons in the NHL. He’s either one of those players who signs late in free agency or mid-season at this point in his career.
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