The Coyotes were already expected to deal from their strength -- defense -- in order to pick up some much needed scoring help up front. Trading two prospects and a draft pick to bring defensive-minded blue-liner Zbynek Michalek back to Phoenix only solidified that belief.
Michalek will likely fill the salary slot of unrestricted free agent Michal Rozsival, who made $5 million last year and won't be coming back. Michalek was a big favorite of Coyotes GM Don Maloney, who was upset when he was outbid for the free agent in the summer of 2010. When the chance to bring Michalek home and give coach Dave Tippett another one of "his kind of player" on the bench, he pulled the trigger and was only too happy to help the Penguins lighten up their payroll.
There were a lot of trade rumors swirling around Keith Yandle, who has another four years and $21 million on his contract. The Coyotes can afford to sign a high-priced free agent who can be a consistent 30-goal scorer, but dangling Yandle in a trade with Oliver Ekman-Larsson poised to settle into his playmaking role could give the Coyotes the right bargaining chip to get the job done.
Yandle played in his second straight All-Star Game last season but didn't score a single power-play goal and struggled at times offensively -- his strongpoint. He is an assistant captain, team leader and close friend of captain Shane Doan, who is also unsigned and probably not too fond of the idea of losing his running mate. But Doan also understands that the Coyotes need more firepower if they want to match or improve last year's Western Conference final run.
The Coyotes' current defense includes Yandle, Ekman-Larsson, Michaek, Rostislav Klesla, Derek Morris and David Schlemko. Maloney believes Michael Stone and Chris Summers are ready for NHL minutes, and David Rundblad and young Brandon Gormley are also on the way. Yandle's resume and salary make trading him sensible. It's just a question of if the right deal is out there.