The Phoenix Coyotes were expected to be active when the NHL entry draft kicked off Saturday in Nashville, Tenn. And they were.
But none of the wheeling and dealing involved the expected suspects.
While goalie Sean Burke and captain Teppo Numminen remained Coyotes property, Phoenix dealt hard-nosed and popular defenseman Danny Markov to the Carolina Hurricanes for a pair of recent first-round draft picks — defensemen David Tanabe and Igor Knyazev.
Coyotes general manager Mike Barnett pulled another deal Saturday, replacing some of the physical presence lost by losing Markov by grabbing pesky left wing Tyson Nash from the St. Louis Blues for a conditional draft pick.
The Blues have the option of taking Phoenix's fifth-round pick today or a fourth-round pick next year to complete the deal. “We loved the defensemen we were getting for Markov, but knew we needed a hell-raiser to replace some of what we were losing in Danny,'' Barnett said. “Tyson Nash fits the bill. He'll be a popular player in Phoenix very quickly.''
The deal for Nash all but eliminates the chances of Phoenix re-signing left wing Brad May, who was traded to Vancouver in March but is just 10 days away from becoming an unrestricted free agent.
Coyotes draft scouts, meanwhile, had to sit and wait their turn as the first and second rounds came and went before Phoenix made its initial selections at Nos. 77 and 80. The Coyotes went for offense, taking Western Canadian center Tyler Redenbach (Swift Current Broncos) and Russian Dimitri Pestunov — a pair of small but skilled playmaking centers.
Tanabe, who made $700,000 last year, will be a restricted free agent on July 1. Knyazev, who was the youngest players in the American Hockey League last season — playing 68 games as an 19-year-old for the Lowell Lock Monsters — has two seasons left on his rookie, entry-level contract. Nash made $1.175 million last season and is an arbitration-eligible restricted free agent.
Markov, who turns 27 next month, made $1.45 million last season and is also a restricted free agent. Barnett's initial talks with agent Don Meehan last year indicated the two sides were “light years apart'' on a contract settlement.
In return, the Coyotes added two young defensemen with bright futures. Tanabe, 22, collected 29 points as a 19-year-old rookie in 2001 playing with Hall of Famer Paul Coffey, now Phoenix's special teams coach.
“We had a great relationship and Paul was a real mentor to me,'' Tanabe said. “He made sure I learned and I had fun and I'm sure he has even more to teach me. I feel like I played my best when I was around him."
The Coyotes think the real jewel of the deal might be Knyazev, who led Russia to the World Junior Championship in 2002 and won over the Phoenix scouts.
“I love him, I've always liked him,'' Phoenix scouting director Vaughn Karpan said. “He's a real throw-back, an old-fashioned, stay-at-home anchor who plays the game one way and never strays.
Barnett thinks adding two defensemen to a young defensive corps that includes Ossi Vaananen, Paul Mara and Brad Ference gives the team a solid blue line future.