Arizona Coyotes defenceman Jakob Chychrun has been the subject of trade rumors for several months. He made it known last season that he was not interested in being part of a long-term rebuild with the club, preferring to play for a team with playoff aspirations.
Now that Chychrun has made his season debut after recovering from offseason wrist surgery, that chatter has intensified. Multiple teams have been linked to Chychrun; Sportnet’s Jeff Marek mentioned the Columbus Blue Jackets, New York Islanders, Los Angeles Kings and Buffalo Sabres on Hockey Night in Canada last week. The Ottawa Senators have long been rumoured as a potential landing spot for Chychrun, and the injury-depleted Toronto Maple Leafs could certainly use help on defence.
It is easy to see why so many teams would inquire about Chychrun, who has averaged 23:07 of ice time and recorded three points in four games this season. He is young (24), big (6-foot-2, 220 pounds) and cost-controlled ($4.6 million cap hit through 2025).
Two seasons ago, Chychrun had a career-high 18 goals, which led all defencemen, and 41 points in 56 games. He knew how to pick his spots, scoring 12 of his goals from the slot.
Because of Chychrun’s impressive offensive numbers that season, his strong defensive play flew under the radar. His 2.6 stick checks per game ranked first out of 180 defencemen with a minimum of 500 minutes played, and he won 161 puck battles, which ranked 11th. It was that all-around game that made Chychrun the No. 16 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft.
Chychrun’s standard statistics tumbled last season, when he finished with seven goals and 21 points in 47 games, but many of his underlying numbers held relatively steady.
Chychrun showed off his play-reading ability last week against the Red Wings, picking off Calder Trophy winner Moritz Seider’s dump-out attempt at the left point and firing it toward the net. Nick Schmaltz tipped Chychrun’s shot into the goal.
As far as weaknesses, Chychrun is turnover-prone, though that can happen when a player handles the puck as much as he does. Last season, Chychrun committed turnovers on 16.2 per cent of his total touches, tied for 186th out of 223 qualified defencemen (min. 500 minutes).
Health is the biggest concern. Chychrun has played in 72 per cent of the Coyotes’ games since his rookie season in 2016-17 (341/474). He has suffered ankle, knee, shoulder and wrist injuries as well as a concussion during his young career, missing double-digit games in five of his seven seasons.
In Chychrun, whichever team acquires him will be getting a well-rounded defenceman who, when healthy, can lead a breakout, help run a power-play and hold his own against tough competition in all situations.
Understandably, the Coyotes are not just going to give away such a valuable asset. Marek previously reported that they are seeking “essentially the equivalent of two first-round draft picks, plus, so that would be a combination of prospect, picks and players as well.”
Marek has compared a potential Chychrun package to the one that the San Jose Sharks sent the Minnesota Wild for Brent Burns in 2011. That included a 2011 first-round pick, Charlie Coyle (who was a first-rounder in 2010), and then-24-year-old Devin Setoguchi (who had 159 points in 267 games at the time). Defencemen like Chychrun are not often available. Let the bidding war begin.