Recalled C Andy Miele from the AHL (Oct. 21, 2011)
Traded C Petteri Nokelainen and D Garrett Stafford to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for C Brock Trotter and a 2012 seventh round draft choice (Oct. 23, 2011)
Traded a fourth round pick in the 2012 draft to the Nashville Predators in exchange for C Cal O'Reilly (Oct. 28, 2011)
Re-acquired RW Brett McLean off of waivers from Winnipeg Jets and assigned him to the AHL (Oct. 29, 2011)
To begin with a perfectly clear statement: we are dealing here with players who have collectively accumulated -1.1 GVT at the NHL level to this point in the season. Each of the three currently in the NHL (Miele, Nokelainen, and O'Reilly) has been below replacement to this point in the young season. Brett MacLean, now back on the Coyotes' farm, was the only one to accrue positive value, a whopping 0.2 GVT in five games for the Jets.
What is not really known is how much of this chain of events was precipitated by the move immediately preceding and how much was simply opportunism on the part of Don Maloney. As discussed six weeks ago, in a look at the Yotes' acquisition of Daymond Langkow, the team has been in scramble mode all season at the center position due to the completely unnecessary and downright silly holdout of the young Kyle Turris*. Even as rumors abound of a possible new Canadian home ( Pierre LeBrun reports heavy interest from Calgary and Ottawa and milder interest from Toronto), the Coyotes still require at least four healthy and productive pivots game after game.
*This isn't about blame; there is plenty of blame to go around to all parties here, Maloney, Turris and his agent, Kyle Overhardt.
The series of events kicked off with Andy Miele's excellent start at AHL Portland, as he put up seven points in four games. The winner of the 2010-11 Hobey Baker Award, given to the best NCAA hockey player, the Coyotes were intrigued by the potential of the undrafted free agent signeeunlike Turris, Miele actually chose to play for Phoenix. If the vertically-impaired Michigan native is going to be up with the big team, he will need to play. He is clearly not going to take the job from Langkow or Martin Hanzal, two productive and well-compensated veterans. Summer UFA signing Boyd Gordon has been surprisingly effective (his current GVT of 1.1 has already exceeded his VUKOTA projection of 1.0), playing a critical defensive forward role. Gordon has taken 55.9% of his faceoffs in the defensive zone, winning 59.5% of them. The former Capital has also averaged over 3.5 minutes of penalty kill time per game.
Suddenly, Petteri Nokelainen's job was vulnerable. The 25-year-old Finn was originally acquired by the Coyotes for a late round draft choice from Anaheim in 2009-10. 17 games with the Coyotes convinced the team to buy him out from his last year under contract. The former first round draft choice returned home and had a decent season playing for Jokerit in the SM-Liiga. Before knowing that Turris would be a problem and six weeks before inking Gordon, the Coyotes brought Nokelainen back on board, giving him a one-year contract. Although he only appeared in five games for the Coyotes, he made himself expendable with below replacement play while facing below average competition. Meanwhile, Montreal, with Scott Gomez hurting, needed an extra center. Judging by the return, Phoenix was happy to oblige. And based on the return (a journeyman AHLer and a late round pick, with another journeyman joining Nokelainen in the Montreal system), the Phoenix organization obviously valued the savings more than the man.
Given some time to show his wares, Miele started off slowly. Playing under 10 minutes per game, he somehow managed to compile -0.5 GVT in only three games. Small sample size and all, centering the fourth line, Miele simply failed to impress, and, according to reports, his size was a detriment to his play.
Underwhelmed, and growing a degree more desperate as Turris' clock to sign ticks down (he has until December 1 to sign in order to remain eligible to play this season), five days after giving away Nokelainen, Maloney shipped a fourth round 2012 draft pick to Nashville in a bid to upgrade the position, picking up Cal O'Reilly, a player reputedly to have been a long-term target of the Arizona GM.
The frequently injured Torontonian was, in fact, injured at the time of the deal, though his groin injury is thought to be a day-to-day ailment. O'Reilly the Elder (younger brother Ryan plays for Colorado) is actually a pretty decent offensive pivot, averaging nearly one point per game throughout his AHL career, spanning 262 games. Injuries limited the new Coyote to 38 games for Nashville last season and 66 combined games between Nashville and their AHL affiliate in Milwaukee in 2009-10. With such problems remaining in the lineup in his recent past, VUKOTA had to be somewhat bearish on his projections, seeing only 44 games played for the 25-year-old, with 20 points scored (seven goals) and 2.6 GVT. Projected out to a reasonably full slate of 75 games played, he would project to provide 4.4 GVT with 34 points. For reference, that would give him a profile not too dissimilar to that of Manny Malhotra, perhaps with less of a defensive burden. With the continued emergence of young Blake Geoffrion and not willing to pay for his frequent IR visits, O'Reilly was expendable for the Preds.
It will not be possible to fully judge this series of moves until the Turris debacle is resolved, but even though Maloney shifted a former first round pick (Nokelainen) and a future fourth rounder and walked away with a former fifth round pick (O'Reilly) and a future seventh rounder, in addition to adding room for a diminutive undrafted player, Phoenix is in a better position today than they were 10 days ago.
In an unrelated move, the Coyotes also re-acquired winger Brett MacLean, a former second round pick of the franchise back in 2007, off waivers from the Winnipeg Jets. The AHL offensive dynamo had been lost to the Jets through the same route mere hours before the puck dropped on the 2011-12 season. MacLean has already spent the majority of three full seasons in the Phoenix system, scoring over 0.75 PPG with AHL San Antonio, with his scoring rates progressively rising season over season, peaking at 50 points in 51 games last year. For his troubles, he earned a 13 game cameo for the Coyotes last year. He was scarcely above replacement level during that stint, his good size and proven scoring abilities somewhat nullified by poor wheels. VUKOTA projects third-line production for the 22-year-old winger, envisioning over 0.35 PPG. While Phoenix seemingly regretted his loss, they see considerably less than VUKOTAat least for the moment, as MacLean was demoted back down to the AHL as soon as the waiver claim was completed. Then again, the Jets were not convinced either, as though he contributed two helpers in his five games, he scarcely played fourth-line minutes, averaging a sheltered 8:29 TOI per game, before being exposed to waivers once again. It must be immensely frustrating to have Patrick O'Sullivan represent the primary impediment between you and the NHL, but that is the case now for MacLean.
Ryan Wagman is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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