The Arizona Coyotes are having a season to forget, winning only six of their first 29 games. With the worst record in the Central Division and NHL altogether, they’re expected to trade many of their top players at the trade deadline, and one of the biggest names in trade rumors is 23-year-old defenseman Jakob Chychrun, arguably the best player on the team. Chychrun’s skill set could take a contending team and possibly transform them into the Stanley Cup champion as one of the best scoring defensemen in the NHL, and as a result, many teams have put together offers for the young defenseman.
The New York Islanders are one of the many teams that have expressed interest in Chychrun, seeing a void on the defensive unit that could be filled by acquiring the young defenseman. The desire to add a blueliner that can open up the offense at the point and help the struggling offense create turnovers into quick scoring chances is understandable. But the risks might outweigh a possible blockbuster trade, and the Islanders ultimately should avoid making the move as a result.
The Coyotes’ Asking Price
The Coyotes are coming off an offseason where they traded many of their star players, including Conor Garland, Christian Dvorak, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and all three of their starting goaltenders from the 2020-21 season. The team is in a clear rebuild and preparing for the future rather than winning now. Trading Chychrun helps fuel the rebuild by acquiring draft picks and prospects, but the team has to think twice about trading the talented defenseman since, at 23 years old, he still has plenty of great years ahead of him. Essentially, it’s in the Coyotes’ interest to build for the future around Chychrun and possibly allow him to be the face of the franchise once the team returns to prominence.
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Likewise, the demand for Chychrun at the moment is high, allowing the Coyotes to field the best offer and one that can give them the most assets and the greatest return. Similar to the Jack Eichel trade, where the Buffalo Sabres found two teams interested in acquiring the talented center but ended up trading Eichel to the Vegas Golden Knights for multiple young and promising players, the Coyotes will take their time and wait for the best offer.
The asking price won’t be the same as Eichel, but the Coyotes will likely ask for one or two draft selections and at least one young prospect that has star potential. For the Islanders, that player could be center Aatu Raty, the team’s 2021 second-round selection in the NHL Entry Draft, who looks poised to make an impact in the NHL in the near future. In addition, the Islanders would likely have to offer multiple draft picks that the team lacks currently following trades the front office has made in recent seasons.
Chychrun Isn’t a Quick Fix to the Defense
The primary issue for acquiring Chychrun this season is that he’s currently on the injured reserve with an upper-body injury. While the league postponed games from Dec. 22 until Dec. 27, providing time for injured players to recover, the young defenseman still will take time to return to the lineup, especially if he’s traded in the upcoming weeks. Additionally, Chychrun has struggled defensively this season, albeit on a team that is playing poorly across the board, and any team that acquires him will have to manage around the potential weaknesses that he has shown this season.
Likewise, the Islanders acquiring Chychrun, or any defenseman, would require a few weeks to find the ideal pairing. Since the beginning of the season, the Islanders have had to adapt their defensive pairings, and acquiring a young defenseman would help the unit, but it’d take time and adjustments from head coach Barry Trotz and the coaching staff.
The indication is that Chychrun would play alongside Noah Dobson, the Islanders’ young defenseman that is having one of the best seasons on the team defensively. Dobson is a particularly great skating defenseman that can create turnovers and start up the offense, and Chychrun would provide a similar skill set to help transform the defense and open up the offense from the point. However, there’s no guarantee that the two young defensemen would work well together, and it’s possible that both would need to play with a veteran defenseman like Zdeno Chara or Andy Greene to balance out the unit.
Chychrun’s Defensive Skill Set
The talent and ceiling of the 23-year-old defenseman are unquestioned, especially at the offensive end of the ice. Chychrun scored 18 goals and added 23 assists to the Coyotes offense last season, both of which were second-most on the team. However, on the defensive end of the ice, Chychrun has struggled at times and can potentially become a liability to the Islanders if they acquire him.
In his six-year career, Chychrun has never blocked 100 shots or more in a season, and the 2019-20 season was the only one where the defenseman contributed over 3.0 defensive point shares. Moreover, he’ll often play a large role on the offensive end of the ice and play closer to the net in the offensive zone than most defensemen, leaving the team susceptible to odd-man rushes the other way on turnovers. The Islanders could use a scoring defenseman, especially after trading Nick Leddy in the offseason, but Trotz has always prioritized defensive-minded defensemen. The team has been successful in recent seasons largely because of strong play from defensive-minded defensemen like Adam Pelech.
Is Chychrun Worth The Price?
Chychrun is a talented player, and it’s possible that the Islanders make a blockbuster trade to acquire him to ultimately put them over the top this season and in the foreseeable future. The problem is the likely price tag that’ll come with trading for the talented defenseman. In addition, the skill set Chychrun would bring to the Islanders would help the defensive unit but only in a specific manner, most notably, offensively. The acquisition would be a great risk with the high potential but one that Lou Lamoriello and the front office would likely be best off if they avoid altogether.
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Mike Fink joined The Hockey Writers in November 2020 and covers the New York Islanders. In addition to covering the Islanders, Fink writes about the NHL at large, looking at general topics from potential cities for NHL relocation to arena traditions throughout the league. Follow Mike on Twitter @Finks_thoughts for more Islanders and general hockey insights.