Why Arizona Coyotes didn't trade the No. 3 pick

Why Arizona Coyotes didn't trade the No. 3 pick

SUNRISE, Fla. — Don Maloney knew that Dylan Strome would be his pick once the NHL Draft Lottery determined the Arizona Coyotes would be selecting No. 3 Friday night. The only thing that would change that was whether he would deal the pick after a number of teams showed interest.

The Coyotes were in on the Dougie Hamilton sweepstakes. It would have been a move that would cause Maloney to trade out the third spot. The idea of Hamilton and Oliver Ekman-Larsson on the blueline for the next decade was tempting, but he kept coming back to the feeling he needed to fill a hole down the middle.

“At the end the day I just felt the only way to build a champion is you have to have a center ice that’s strong,” Maloney said after Round 1 at the BB&T Center.

Maloney said he received two “signifcant" offers to deal No. 3 outright, without a pick coming back in return. But his mind kept returning to need, and the only way he would deal out of that spot would be if he was assured Strome would still be there.

“I’m talking about trading it outright and doing some of the things I’m doing and [Coyotes scouts] looking at me like ‘you’re out of your mind’ because how do you build a Stanley Cup winner?” he said. “That was really our thought. It doesn’t take an Einstein to look at the winning teams.”

Maloney said he looked at the successful teams in the Western Conference and they all had at least one thing in common: strength down the middle. He liked center Mathew Barzal and defensemen Noah Hanifin and Ivan Provorov, but Strome was too good to pass up.

“We felt he was the best for our franchise now and in the future,” he said.

Currently, the Coyotes’ depth chart at center lists Sam Gagner, who may receive a buyout before Tuesday, Martin Hanzal, Joe Vitale, Kyle Chipchura and Mark Arcobello, who is set to become an RFA on July 1. You can see why Maloney really wanted to upgrade at that position.

Max Domi is coming. Dylan Strome is coming. But Maloney won’t be rushing any of his prospects. There’s no need to in the Coyotes’ situation. They’re not going to win the Stanley Cup next season, and another poor year could set them up to win next year’s Draft Lottery and the right to select Arizona-born Auston Matthews first overall.

While we all knew where Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel were going to go, the intrigue was at No. 3 and the Coyotes, not just if Maloney would trade out, but who he would select. So was it fun to be in that position?

“Hell no,” he said with a laugh. “There was a lot of misery to get to that third pick, so there was nothing fun about it. This is the only day you’re like ‘OK, I’m glad I had No. 3.’ We have a lot of work to do to get some respect back in this organization.”

The Coyotes’ future is both uncertain and bright. For now, Maloney will have work to do to get over the salary cap floor for next season as the franchise deals with another round of issues with the City of Glendale. He said he’ll likely have to go through the trade route to find help and fill some holes in his roster.

There’s still a ways to go, but steps are being taken in the right direction for the franchise, at least on the ice.

“We feel like if you look at our roster going forward, up front we’re starting to shape up,” he said.

“The back end still needs a little work, but I think in 2-3 years we’ll be fun. It’s just this bridge time to get there.”

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!