If the Arizona Coyotes hired John Chayka for his penchant to dissolve numbers into results, the organization may be getting its first real benefit.
In a move to take an amount off the Coyotes’ salary cap and gain a player whom they sought, Chayka made a deal with the Detroit Red Wings on draft night to accomplish both objectives. After selecting diminutive center Clayton Keller at number seven overall, a player whose scoring touch and creative acumen is compared with the Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane, Chayka went after defenseman Jakob Chychrun, whose past season of injuries and adversity was overlook in regard to his up-side potential. While both Keller and Chychrun are considered a distance from joining a Coyotes opening day roster, Chayka showed how he views the role of numbers in the overall operation.
In acquiring forward Pavel Datsyuk from the Red Wings for selection number 18 in the 2016 draft and moving up from number 20 in the first round, the Coyotes also picked up Datsyuk’s $7.5 million salary. In this deal with Detroit, the Coyotes sent forward Joe Vitale, who missed the 2015-16 season with concussion issues, their 2016 first round pick (20th overall), and a 2016 second round pick, which was the 53th overall selection.
At the end of last season, Datsyuk told the Red Wings he was playing in Russia this coming season, and essentially said “good-bye” to his 14 years in the NHL. Should Datsyuk honor his commitment to play in Russia next season, Chayka can use his $7.5 million salary against the cap. Currently, the Coyotes are at $54 million against the cap, and can reduce that to around $47 million.
For the Red Wings, this also frees $7.5 million to go after Steven Stamkos, should the Tampa Bay centericeman decide to test the free agency market beginning July 1st.
While economics remains a vital consideration, there was no question the Coyotes had their sights on Chychrun, who played at Sarina last season, but was raised in Boca Raton, Fla., another Sun Belt area.
“(Chychrun) was tough to pass for us,” Chayka told the NBC Sports Network. “We know he had a tough season, but also know he’ll be physically ready when camp begins.”
The plan is Chychrun to join Keller and other prospects, such as Christian Dvorak, Dylan Strome, Brendan Perlini and others, at the Coyotes’ prospect camp in two weeks. Scheduled for the Gila River Arena July 4-8, the goal is to introduce players to an NHL environment and lay a foundation for training camp in September.For now, the selection, particularly of Keller, reflects the basic approach in any NHL draft. While the NBA and NFL draft for immediate impact players, Major League Baseball and the NHL select players for development. Going forward, Keller is committed to play at Boston College for the 2016-17 season, and the 17-year-old is considered a few years away from seriously challenging for a spot on the Coyotes’ roster.
“I set goals for myself all the time,” Keller told the NBC Sports Network. “I want to be a leader, and it’s crazy how things turned out. I can’t wait to get started.
Keller comes to Arizona with impressive credentials. Playing for the under-18 United States Development Team, the native of Swansea, Ill. gathered a total of 130 points in 78 games in his career, and that is second all-time in scoring for the U. S. National U18 team. At the recent U18 World Championships, Keller scored 14 points (4-10) in seven games, and was named MVP of the tournament.
On the second day of draft activity, the Coyotes selected defenseman Cam Dineen with their third round pick (68th overall). The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Dineen recorded 13-46-59 in 68 games with North Bay (OHL) last season and was named to the OHL All-Rookie First Team.
With the 158th overall pick in the sixth round, the Coyotes selected defenseman Patrick Kudla who will play college hockey for Arizona State in 2017-18. The 6-foot-3, 174-pound blueliner registered 13-53-66 in 50 games with the Oakville Blades (OJHL)
The Coyotes final selection in the seventh round (188th overall) was defenseman Dean Stewart, who will play college hockey at Nebraska-Omaha in 2017-18. The Portage la Prairie, Manitoba native registered 8-14-22 in 42 games with the Portage Terriers (MJHL) and helped the team win the MJHL Championship
In a trade, Arizona acquired defenseman Anthony DeAngelo from the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for the team’s second round 2016 draft choice (37th overall). DeAngelo registered 6-37-43 in 69 games with the Syracuse Crunch (AHL) last season, and that was good for third among AHL rookies. DeAngelo was the Lightning’s 2014 first round choice (19th overall).
More Growth From The Southwest
When the Leafs selected Auston Matthews number one overall on Friday, that marked the first time in draft history a number one selection came from Arizona. The Scottsdale native immediately drew accolades as a catalyst for hockey advancement in the desert.
“I’m honored to be selected by such a storied franchise,” Matthews told the NBC Sports Network. “This is also important for growth in the southwest. It shows how rapidly hockey is growing there.”
A New Home
Before the draft on Friday, Anthony LeBlanc, the Coyotes president, said the team will have a new home shortly. A new arena deal is forthwith, said LeBlanc, and the Coyotes are currently in negotiations to iron details on the location and other logistical issues.
For the coming 2016-17 season, the Coyotes are legally bound to play home games in the Gila River Arena in Glendale, and will, Le Blanc said, able to work an agreement where the Coyotes could play in the building for the next two years. That’s construction time for a new arena to be ready. On Friday, Le Blanc made no commitment regarding the location in the greater Phoenix area, and only said once real estate agreements are resolved, he would be in a position to make an announcement.
From the Coyotes standpoint, the most sensible location would be to partner with native American organizations, and build the arena on land adjacent to the Salt River spring training complex used by the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies in Scottsdale.
“We’ve made significant progress over the past several weeks, and discovered a site,” said LeBlanc.” We anticipate getting this finalized over the next several weeks. No real rush because, we have the lease for this year in place. It’s more of a real estate project than just an arena. The arena is a focal point, and then there’s a large available of land. This comes down to economics. I can tell you that 50 percent will be financed by the Coyotes.”
LeBlanc did say the Coyotes are likely committed to skate in the Gila River Arena for the next three years. Then, the new arena/mixed-use property, such as the arena along with retail space and restaurants, will be in place for operation.
Mark Brown is a former sports editor for daily newspapers in the Philadelphia and Cincinnati markets. He was named Best Sports Columnist, honorable mention 2004 by the Associated Press Society of Ohio. He is a contributor to major daily newspapers, including the Chicago Sun Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Milwaukee Journal, Arizona Republic, Nashville Tennessean and the Associated Press. He was a Featured Columnist for bleacherreport.com and covered the Arizona Coyotes.