Big Decision for the Coyotes

By Brandon LeBourveau

The Phoenix Coyotes have a big decision to make before June 1st, 2001. Should they sign Moose Jaw Warriors’ Center Scott Kelman or let him reenter the 2001 Entry Draft? That is the question.

The Coyotes drafted the 6’2 188 pound Winnipeg native in the 1st Round (15th Overall) of the 1999 Entry Draft with the pick they received along with Travis Green when they dealt defenseman Oleg Tverdovsky back to Anaheim. Phoenix saw a chance to take a character player in Kelman who has a lot of heart, is a physical presence and gives it his best effort every game. The only knock on Kelman was his offensive abilities. Scouts were not convinced that he would be able to be a scorer in the NHL. And they were right.

Nearly two years later, many hockey people feel Kelman has not improved at all since being drafted, despite scoring a career high 20 goals this season with the Moose Jaw Warriors of the WHL. Kelman was dealt to the Warriors in the beginning of the season in the deal that saw star New York Rangers prospect Jamie Lundmark head the other way to Seattle. The Coyotes have to decide whether Kelman is worth 1st round money and be confident that he could become that 2nd line center they saw in him when they drafted him. If they decide to not sign him, Scott will reenter the 2001 Entry Draft and it’s anyone’s guess where he will end up. If I had to take a stab at it, I’d say Kelman wouldn’t be taken higher than the 3rd round. The Coyotes would also receive a 2nd round pick in compensation for letting Kelman go. The pick would likely be in the late 30’s to the early 40’s.

A scenario that the Coyotes could explore is not signing Kelman and getting the 2nd round compensatory pick, and then drafting Kelman in the 3rd or 4th round or whatever selection they have later in the draft where he is available. The Coyotes would actually making a gain, as an early 2nd round pick in this deep draft is not too shabby. But we’ll have to wait and see what GM Cliff Fletcher decides to do. He has a couple of decisions he needs to make in the upcoming months, with the biggest one being trying to sign all-star center Jeremy Roenick instead of letting him walk as a free agent and getting nothing in return but a 2nd round compensatory pick given by the league.

Decisions need to be made soon or the Coyotes could lose their best player and be forced to turn to a rebuilding mode, however, it already looks like they are headed in that direction with the Khabibulin and Tkachuk deals.

Notes: It has been confirmed that Coyotes owner Steve Elman has struck a deal that the Coyotes new 17,500 seat arena will be built in Glendale. The arena should be ready by either 2003 or 2004…Stay tuned fans as we are heading towards one of the most important events in the NHL: The Entry Draft! The Coyotes hold the 14th selection and the St. Louis Blues pick, but the spot of that pick will not be determined until after the playoffs because the NHL has instituted a new format where the 6 Division winning teams and the Stanley Cup winner will be the last teams picking in the 1st Round. I will be making a draft preview and a draft review introducing all the Coyotes new draft picks. This summer I will add profiles for the new Coyotes prospects and make new rankings and everything. The whole site will be updated including all the prospects profiles, stats and everything else!