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Why team isn’t fazed by arena search

It’s been an eventful offseason for the Arizona Coyotes in many ways.

From the ongoing search for an arena to an abundant draft and free agency, the team hasn’t been dormant.

And while the team’s ongoing search for the arena is a potential deterring factor for players, it hasn’t stopped general manager Bill Armstrong.

“As I told the guys on the Zoom call, I said, ‘I don’t build rinks, I build teams,'” Armstrong said. “What we have behind the scenes are great people that really assemble the organization… I think it’s the way you treat people behind the scenes that really counts, and make sure you put them in a place to succeed.”

The search for the arena since May’s failed proposal in Tempe has involved six sites around the East Valley and will be presented to the league by the start of next year.

“I have our firm belief that our ownership and the NHL are going to work together to get the best piece of land and build an arena here,” Armstrong said.

Arizona Coyotes goaltender Connor Ingram (39) and Arizona Coyotes defenseman Troy Stecher (51) celebrate after defeating the Colorado Avalanche at Mullett Arena in Tempe on Dec. 27, 2022.

The combination of earning a high volume of draft picks and turning waiver pickups into everyday players like goaltender Connor Ingram and defenseman Juuso Valimaki has Armstrong feeling confident in the rebuild.

“If we can get it to the point of the next couple of years where we can be a competitive team that takes a step forward on the ice, over the next five years, you’ll see these players slowly filter in,” Armstrong said.

The Coyotes followed up a draft that included 12 picks by remaining active in free agency. In what was supposed to be a weaker free agency around the league, the Coyotes brought in established veterans in Jason Zucker and Alexander Kerfoot.

Both add considerable depth to the forwards group already headlined by Clayton Keller and Nick Schmaltz.

“I’m just hoping that in general, I can help them grow their games, their personalities, their professionalism, in just the worlds they’re living in,” Zucker said. “Hopefully we can really grow their game, grow themselves individually, and I hope to be a part of that.”

Arena search: The Arizona Coyotes have honed in on 6 Phoenix-area locations. Here are the most and least likely

The Coyotes have room to make more moves this offseason as the team currently holds $16.3 million in cap space. Restricted free agents Matias Maccelli and Jack McBain have not been re-signed yet, which will move the needle a little bit.

There are currently five defensemen under contract, which yields for an opening heading into training camp.

One thing that has stood out for the Coyotes so far in free agency was bringing back forward Nick Bjugstad and defenseman Troy Stecher. The two were dealt at last season’s deadline and were credited with building the team’s chemistry last season.

“They had an opportunity to go elsewhere and had all these offers and they chose to come back here. Right from the moment they had to leave, they expressed their wish to come back,” said head coach Andre Tourigny. “People — sometimes because of the noise — don’t realize how it is to play here and I think that is a testimony to how it is to play for our team.”

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Arizona Coyotes NHL free agency: Why team isn’t fazed by arena search

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