Phoenix Coyotes GM Don Maloney woke up at 5:30 a.m. Wednesday and expected to get shut out on trade deadline day. He had needs — that's for sure. Despite sitting in fifth-place in the Western Conference, his team had one of the league's worst power plays.
And there wasn't much depth on the Coyotes' roster. Maloney desperately wanted to change that, but not bad enough to deal any of his top prospects or a top pick. Or, basically, what every selling GM was demanding for players.
But on Wednesday, Maloney and the Coyotes blew away all expectations. Just like they have all season. And now, what was once supposed to be a throwaway year for a team on its way out of town could be something special.
"It's exciting. In the past we've been part of the trade deadline and it's usually the other way," captain Shane Doan told Sporting News. "It hasn't been fun being a Coyotes fan the last few years. The least we can do is give them something to cheer about."
And they have. Thanks to some shrewd work by Maloney on the NHL's busiest trade day of the year.
Maloney added players Wojtek Wolski, Derek Morris, Alexandre Picard, Lee Stempniak, Petteri Nokelainen and Mathieu Schneider. No, there's not a superstar in the bunch, but they haven't been winning with superstars all year in the desert.
Maloney addressed his power play issues with Wolski, Morris and Schneider, and depth issues with the rest. And he did it without coming close to sacrificing the future.
All of Phoenix's future top picks are safe and sound. So are top prospects Kyle Turris, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Viktor Tikhonov.
"It's nice to be in a position to improve your club with a chance to win," Maloney said. "What excites me about what we were able to accomplish today, we feel we made ourselves better and not at the costs of 'A' assets."
And that brings us to Peter Mueller. He might be the one "A" asset who got away. Shipped to the Colorado Avalanche with Kevin Porter in return for Wolski, Mueller was the eighth overall pick in 2006. He had 22 goals in his rookie 2007-08 season but has regressed since then.
Still only 21, Mueller has the potential to become the player the Coyotes thought they were drafting.
Mueller used to live with Maloney and the GM said he likes him as a person. He also thought he was ready for a breakout season.
But it didn't happen.
"It became clear to me that he wanted a change, needed a change and that it wasn't going to work with us here," Maloney said. "We pulled the plug."
Maloney was able to afford these additions because he skimped money in a way that would make financial adviser Dave Ramsey proud. Throughout the season, the Coyotes tried their best not to carry extra players in order to keep down costs.
The Coyotes still are owned by the league, until the final details of their new ownership deal are completed, and money isn't exactly flowing. But contrary to some perceptions, Gary Bettman wasn't over Maloney's shoulder rubber-stamping every move.
"The Coyotes worked within the parameters of a previously approved budget for player payroll," deputy commissioner Bill Daly wrote in an e-mail. "While we were made aware of and approved all of the deals they consummated, the team was entirely free to make personnel decisions."
And they did — and then some. One of the best stories of the season, the surprising success of the Coyotes, just got a lot better. And it doesn't look like this group is done.
PHT: The Bruins try to complete their sweep tonight (7 p.m. ET; Live Extra, CNBC). On NBCSN, the Hawks and Wings play (7 ET; Live Extra), then the Sharks and Kings square off (10:30 ET; Live Extra).
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