The Arizona Coyotes have found themselves at the center of discussion for many years in NHL circles. These discussions usually aren't positive ones, though. In fact, many of these discussions have centered around their very existence within the state of Arizona. By now, hockey fans know about the team's struggles to find a long-term home in The Grand Canyon State.
However, on the ice, this team is underrated. The Coyotes were underrated last season, despite their overall less-than-ideal record. Arizona played up to their more skilled opponents and oftentimes found themselves stealing points they otherwise would have dropped.
This season, the team is once again playing well. So much so that, as of this writing, the Coyotes are holding down a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It's an incredible start to the season for a team that went through so much despair off the ice prior to October's puck drop.
Arizona could certainly fall off, much like the similarly situated Philadelphia Flyers. That said, they could also maintain their positioning and contend in the Western Conference. With this in mind, here are three early trade targets for fans of the Arizona Coyotes to keep in mind as the season continues.
Sean Walker is an interesting veteran option
Speaking of the Flyers, hello Sean Walker. When Philadelphia acquired him in June, few expected him to play a major role on the team. Sure, he'd receive more playing time with Philly than he would have with the Los Angeles Kings. But the 29-year-old has been an absolute gem for them this season.
Walker is on track for a career year offensively. He has three goals and 11 points through 24 games in 2023-24. To put this in perspective, he had three goals and 13 points through 70 games with the Kings last year. The veteran blueliner is just 13 points off his career-high point total already this season.
An increase in ice time certainly contributes to this success. Walker is averaging a little over 21 minutes a game with the Flyers. In Los Angeles, he averaged around 15 minutes last year. And he averaged no more than 19 minutes throughout his time in the City of Angels.
The Coyotes could use some added punch from the blueline offensively. Sean Durzi and JJ Moser have 10+ points so far this season. Beyond that, however, their next three highest-scoring defensemen have four points each. Getting another playmaker from the point could go a long way. And Sean Walker looks to be a good fit.
Adam Boqvist is a worthwhile reclamation project
The Columbus Blue Jackets are in a state of flux, so to speak. They aren't exactly terrible and have shown glimpses of competent play. However, they also aren't that good. Columbus may be looking to shake up their roster, and that's where a potential Adam Boqvist trade comes in.
Boqvist came to the Blue Jackets in the Seth Jones trade in 2021. A former top-10 pick, he entered the league with a ton of potential. And he has flashed the ability to produce well at the NHL level. In 2021-22, he scored a career-high 11 goals in 52 games with the Blue Jackets, for example.
This season, under new head coach Pascal Vincent, things haven't gone too well. While he has received more ice time as of late, he has only played 12 games. He has strong offensive instincts and still has some potential as a power-play quarterback. He just hasn't found a consistent role in Columbus.
The Coyotes may want more of an established, veteran option here. That said, Boqvist is a short and long-term option if a veteran can't be had. He represents an interesting reclamation project for Arizona. He is only 23, so there is certainly time for things to get back on track for Adam Boqvist.
Noah Hanifin would be a statement pickup
Many expected a bit of a fire sale from the Calgary Flames even in the offseason. Many players, including defenseman Noah Hanifin, expressed their hesitation about re-signing with the team. The team's lackluster start to the season certainly didn't help matters. And now, it appears the Nikita Zadorov trade was just the beginning of an inevitable sell off.
Hanifin represents potentially the top trade candidate in the entire league. He is a free agent at the end of this season. And the 26-year-old has a lot to offer any team, whether he is traded or has to wait until the summer to leave.
Hanifin has been deployed in all situations, and he can perform in any role. He is solid in his own end of the ice, he has an underrated shot, he can move the puck, and he can play with an edge. The Flames blueliner can move between the second and first-pairing as a result.
The acquisition cost could be a bit steep. However, the Coyotes have the assets to get this done. Furthermore, they have the cap space to sign him long-term. If Arizona wants to establish itself as a playoff contender, acquiring Noah Hanifin would make quite the statement.