Maple Leafs’ Trade for Coyotes Jakob Chychrun Makes Sense

When was the last time during an offseason where there’s been so much inactivity? Usually, for those of us who cover the Toronto Maple Leafs, something is happening. But for the last few weeks, barely anything.

In fact, it seems as if the entire NHL has crept to a halt. Could it be one of those times when the dam will suddenly break and things start to happen all at once? If there were a trade, it would be difficult for one trade not to impact another trade. 

Related: Maple Leafs Will Trade William Nylander This Offseason

There are tons of rumors floating around, not always from the most reliable sources. One continuing rumor is that a number of teams might be interested in looking at Jakob Chychrun of the Arizona Coyotes. From the outside, it looks as if the Coyotes as an organization are in a collective space where it would seem wise to move him.

Why Trading Chychrun Makes Sense from the Coyotes’ Perspective

First, the Coyotes are in a don’t-win-yet mode. The team is in transition, where they’ve moved “temporarily” into a much smaller arena. There’s not much money coming in, so there is a need to make deals that move out expensive contracts. At the same time, the Coyotes are trying to reach the salary-cap floor without actually spending the money commensurate with those salary-cap hits. 

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

For example, they’d probably love a contract or three like the one Alex Kerfoot carries. Specifically, Kerfoot has a $3.5 million salary-cap hit but got paid much of his money in the first year of his contract in 2019-20. Currently, he’s only paid $2.7 million for the season. 

In addition, on July 1 this year, Kerfoot was paid a signing bonus of $1.95 million. That leaves only $750,000 to be paid for the season. If the Coyotes can string a few contracts like this one together, they can reach the salary-cap floor of $61 million without “really” spending the money.

With Chychrun the Maple Leafs Can Improve Its Defense

Trading for another strong defender makes sense for the Maple Leafs. Assuming the goalie tandem of Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov works well enough, the team faces two obvious needs. One is finding a left-winger for the second line. The second is shoring up the defense. 

Related: The 10 Coolest Old School NHL Goalie Masks

Both seem to be priorities for the team. So, from that perspective, bringing in Chychrun makes sense. 

The fact is that Chychrun is a decent left-handed defender; and, perhaps better yet, he’s on a contract with a reasonable salary-cap hit. If the Maple Leafs brought him in, they’d have to absorb his $4.6 million cap hit. But they’d also have him under contract through 2024-25. The biggest part of his entire contract would be paid that season ($6 million). But the organization is rich enough to absorb that easily.

Jakob Chychrun Arizona Coyotes
Jakob Chychrun, Arizona Coyotes (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Chychrun is really strong offensively. And, perhaps with a winning team could be a Norris Trophy candidate. Other teams have been rumored to be after Chychrun, but the Coyotes seemingly aren’t budging on a high asking price. 

The fact Chychrun remains with the Coyotes means their asking price has likely not dropped. Still, there’s good logic to believe the Coyotes might be willing (if not anxious) to move him. 

Reasons Why Going After Chychrun Makes Sense for Toronto Now

Maple Leafs’ fans have never been so angry. The organization must know and even feel that anger. Given the history of the Maple Leafs and the perceived need to win now, it also might make sense that Toronto would be willing to go for a home run to bring Chychrun to the Ontario capital.

Related: Kings Should Pursue Jakob Chychrun at All Costs

Now the practical question. If the Maple Leafs want Chychrun, who might go? 

There are three obvious candidates. One I have mentioned already in Kerfoot. The other is Justin Holl who, despite his falling out of favor last season, remains with the team. He’s a right-handed defenseman and that’s a positive. However, he’s on everyone’s move-out-of-town list. 

The third most obvious player to be moved would be William Nylander. Nylander is gifted, but he’s also polarizing. Just this morning I read in the Conversation Section of a Post (for the 2000th time it seems) that he failed to prevent an icing call by not taking a hit. Part of the Maple Leafs’ fan base thinks he just floats. 

William Nylander Toronto Maple Leafs
Could William Nylander be moved by the Toronto Maple Leafs?
(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

I am not of that opinion. And, the truth is that I don’t know if the team should make any deal that moves Nylander out. That said, I have written that I think the team could move Nylander and should consider doing so. But I’m also unsure the Maple Leafs should or would make that deal.

Five Reasons for Bringing In Chychrun

There are, as I see it, a number of reasons that might lean the team toward making a deal for Chyrhcun.

Reason One: Chychrun is a top-pairing defensive player with a big upside. Given the right circumstances, he might even be a Norris Trophy caliber.

Reason Two: If it were Nylander moving for Chychrun, that would save the Maple Leafs about $2 million. That’s logical in terms of dollars and cents.

Related: Maple Leafs Face a Dilemma with Alex Kerfoot

Reason Three: If it were Nylander moving for Chychrun, it would give the Maple Leafs an extra year of term and a player who’s three years younger. That’s logical in terms of solidifying a team for the foreseeable future.

Reason Four: If such a trade worked out and Chychrun played well, the Maple Leafs would have a player who would be solid on its defense for a long time. 

Matthew Knies University of Minnesota
Matthew Knies, University of Minnesota, is from Phoenix. (Image courtesy of University of Minnesota Athletics)

Reason Five: Matthew Knies is from Phoenix. I read that, in the interview, he noted that he’d someday like to play at home in Arizona. Knies seems like an up-and-comer, but I’d move him.

Maple Leafs Fans Are Ready for a Change

Maple Leafs’ fans are past ready for a big change. Many, despite the team’s regular season success, simply believe the team is a train wreck ready to happen. 

Not that the Maple Leafs should be directed by their fans, but a big trade right now might offer some needed enthusiasm into the upcoming season. Is that in itself worthy of action?