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Arizona Coyotes retool roster with eyes on the future

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Sometimes a team has to get bad in order to get good. In the Arizona Coyotes case, they might have to get really bad, but the potential is there to be really good in the not-too-distant future.

As part of a flurry of trades leading up to Monday’s NHL trade deadline, the Coyotes acquired top prospect Anthony Duclair, young defenseman Klas Dahlbeck, forward prospect Maxim Letunov and defenseman John Moore.

“This is a day of hope and opportunity for this franchise,” Don Maloney, the team’s general manager, said just hours after the deadline. “Three or four years down the road, you could see the makings of a winner.”

Duclair was the key piece in the trade that sent defenseman Keith Yandle to the Rangers. Once the 19-year-old Quebec native became available, the Coyotes pounced. He is considered a future top line winger and played on the same line as Coyotes’ prospect Max Domi at the World Junior Championships. The two are expected to anchor Arizona’s young core.

“He’s a guy who’s ready to play now,” Maloney said of Duclair. “He’s played in the league and starred in a major tournament.”

Dahlbeck and Moore joined the Coyotes Monday and played in Tuesday’s loss to the Anaheim Ducks. They are both young. Dahlbeck ,23, and Moore, 24, are expected to be in the team’s long-term plans.

The moves the team made in the last week were all done with the future in mind. With veterans Yandle, Antoine Vermette and Zbynek Michalek gone, wins will likely be harder to come by for the remainder of the season.

This may not be such a bad thing. This year’s NHL Draft is expected to be among the deepest in years and the Coyotes also have Chicago’s first-round pick as part of the Vermette deal. Arizona currently has 47 points, one more than the Edmonton Oilers and four more than the Buffalo Sabres. If the Coyotes finish below both of those teams, they will have the best odds of winning the draft lottery and selecting Ontario Hockey League star center Connor McDavid.

McDavid is the consensus top pick and is considered the best draft prospect since the Penguins took Sidney Crosby first overall in 2005. Even if the Coyotes choose second, they can take Jack Eichel, a center for Boston University, who has the talent to go No. 1 if not for McDavid.

“Depending on where we end up, we’re going to get a terrific player,” Maloney said.

As for this season, coach Dave Tippett still has a job to do, and it got considerably harder for his team to win games after the recent moves.

“Starting the year, nobody expected this,” Tippett said. “We can talk about it until we’re blue in the face, but it’s where we are and you have to deal with it. Our staff will deal with it and our players here, we expect them to go out and play with pride.”

The Coyotes have 18 games left in the season before the optimism can begin again. The current team is arguably the worst in franchise history, yet the minor league system is stacked with talent.

With Duclair, Domi, a top pick in this year’s draft and other potential impact players in the system like Brendan Perlini and Christian Dvorak, it might take a while, but Coyotes management is confident winning ways are coming to Arizona.

“To get the assets that we were able to get in a deep draft and multiple early picks is critical to where we want to take this team,” Maloney said. “This is an investment of our future.”