Kings Should Pursue Jakob Chychrun at All Costs

For a while now, the Los Angeles Kings have been in the market for a dynamic, young defenseman to play on the left side. Throughout this time, I’ve wanted the Kings to remain ultra-conservative and avoid looking into the trade market, with the caveat that if a player like Jakob Chychrun becomes available, then things change. According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, things have changed, and that exact player is available. In his latest addition of 32 thoughts, Friedman had this to say about Chychrun:

“Arizona GM Bill Armstrong refused to comment when asked, but it now sounds like the Coyotes are gauging the market on Jakob Chychrun. I’ve heard the ask is massive, but that doesn’t mean opponents are running away. He’s signed for three more years at a very reasonable $4.6 million AAV and is a terrific player. This is one to watch.”

Elliotte Friedman, 32 Thoughts, Sportsnet

There are few reporters more reliable than Friedman, so if he’s reporting this, there’s truth to it. Chychrun would transform the Kings’ defense right now and would be a cornerstone piece for the next decade-plus.

What Does Chychrun Bring?

Chychrun is one of the most complete defensemen in the league, a true two-way defenseman who can both provide offense and shut down the other team’s top players. At 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, he’s physically imposing with one of the best defensive sticks in the league. He’s been a fantastic defender since entering the league in 2016, but he’s added top-end offense over the last two seasons, especially when looking at goal-scoring. Last season, he netted 18 goals, good enough to lead all defensemen in the category. Those 18 goals would have also led all Kings in goals last season.

Jakob Chychrun Arizona Coyotes
Jakob Chychrun, Arizona Coyotes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Perhaps that’s even more impressive when you consider that just five of those 18 goals came with the man advantage. He scored at a 19-goal pace at 5-on-5 last season, stellar numbers for a blueliner. It also fills a massive need for the Kings. They have struggled to generate offense for a few seasons now, especially from the back end, so adding a player with Chychrun’s talents would be huge.

Chychrun’s numbers have taken a sharp decline this season, with just seven points in 26 games, but I wouldn’t be too worried about that. He’s playing on the worst team in the league and arguably one of the worst rosters we’ve seen in a while. If you ask people who consistently watch the Arizona Coyotes, the consensus is that he is still an elite player.

The Cost of Chychrun

This is where grabbing Chychrun becomes difficult. As Friedman mentioned, the ask for him is massive. Fortunately, the Coyotes will be looking for future assets, something the Kings have in abundance. With the best prospect pool in hockey, they have a plethora of options to send the Coyotes. I think there should be just two, maybe three names that the Kings view as untouchable.

Quinton Byfield and Arthur Kaliyev should not be made available under any circumstance. Byfield is their future number one center, and they don’t have anyone with Kaliyev’s goal-scoring potential in their prospect pool. The other name that I’m on the fence about is 2021 first-round pick Brandt Clarke. There’s a potential elite offensive-defenseman in Clarke, and the one-two punch he could provide alongside Chychrun would be dominant. But, if he’s the main piece for a potential deal, the Kings should entertain the option.

Brandt Clarke Barrie Colts
Brandt Clarke of the Barrie Colts. (Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images)

If the Kings pursue this deal, we’ll get a good sense of what Gabe Vilardi‘s value is. There’s little chance he’s the focal point of any deal, but depending on the Coyotes’ opinion of the young forward, he could be a big piece. While I’d like the organization to do everything in its power not to lose him, Alex Turcotte is a likely candidate to make this deal happen. Outside of Clarke, every defensive prospect in the organization should also be available. I have to imagine the Coyotes will want at least one defenseman back for Chychrun, so someone like Helge Grans or Brock Faber could help make the deal happen.

Related: Los Angeles Kings’ Top 10 Prospects

Looking at recent trades for big-name defensemen, this year’s first-round pick, a top-six forward prospect like Vilardi or Rasmus Kupari, and a solid roster player such as Andreas Athanasiou should be the conversation starter for the Kings. This package is unlikely to get the deal done, as the Coyotes will want more, but this should be around where the Kings start their offer.

I would hate to see the Kings lose some solid prospects like Kupari or Vilardi, two players I have a lot of faith in, but you’ll have to spend big to get Chychrun. Other prospects such as Samuel Fagemo or Tyler Madden would also likely be included in any deal. One of the best parts about having such a great prospect pool is that it gives you plenty of assets to move in the pursuit of an elite player like Chychrun.

Chychrun Fills a Big Hole for the Kings

Chychrun is the exact player the Kings have been looking for; a dynamic, young defenseman who can provide offense. Add on the fact that he’s signed for three more years at just $4.6 million as gravy on top. His availability comes at a good time for the Kings too, who just lost Alex Edler to injury. While trading for Chychrun should be separate from replacing Edler, as it should happen even if he was healthy, it just adds another layer to why this makes sense.

It shouldn’t have any effect on whether they go after him or not, but the fact that Chychrun’s dad Jeff played for the Kings for a brief period would also be interesting. I’ve always been someone who’s wanted general manager Rob Blake to err on the side of caution in the trade market, but Chychrun is one of the few players who Blake should throw the kitchen sink at. This is a defenseman who has genuine Norris Trophy caliber potential, who can anchor their blue line for the foreseeable future.