NHL: Cunningham a Coyote

Warfield native Craig Cunningham was claimed by the Arizona Coyotes off waivers on Monday.

Warfield native Craig Cunningham was claimed by the Arizona Coyotes off waivers on Monday.

The 24-year-old Cunningham recorded two goals and an assist and two penalty minutes in 32 games with the Boston Bruins this season, but the Bruins put Cunningham on waivers on Sunday to open a roster spot for potential trades at the NHL trade deadline Monday.

Cunningham played his first game as a Coyote in a 4-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday. The move to a team fighting to stay out of the NHL basement may be good for Cunningham, who will likely see time as a third-line centre in Phoenix. Wearing number 22 in his opening match, Cunningham played on the left wing, and registered two shots on goal, four hits, while playing 13:24 TOI.

The former Beaver Valley Nitehawk averaged 10:06 on ice with Boston this season, but the loss for the Bruins mostly comes next season, when Cunningham would have been a logical option for the team’s fourth-line center.

Cunningham is a defensively sound player who had the chance to make a bigger impact with the Bruins in the future. Gregory Campbell, the current fourth line center, will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, and the team is in dire need of a remade fourth line.

Cunningham, who was also named the captain of the Providence Bruins earlier this year, played 21 games in the AHL this season with five goals and 10 assists, and had spent the three previous seasons in Providence. The five-foot-10, 184-pound forward was originally drafted by the Bruins in the fourth round (97th overall) in the 2010 Entry Draft.

Meanwhile, the Coyotes made a flurry of moves in the past week. With general manager Don Maloney acknowledging they are embarking on a three-to-five year rebuilding plan, Arizona also sent defenceman Keith Yandle to the New York Rangers, centre Antoine Vermette to Chicago and defenceman Zbynek Michaelek to St. Louis.

The trades give the Coyotes prospects and two first-round draft picks in each of the next two years. In the short term, however, Arizona is contending for the worst record in the NHL.

In addition to Cunningham, John Moore (from the Rangers) and fellow defenceman Klas Dahlbeck (Blackhawks) made their Arizona debuts. So did forward Tye McGinn who was also claimed off waivers Monday from San Jose.

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