The “NHL Talk” column is your go-to for Monday-to-Friday hockey insight with quotes from your favourite writers. Listen to THW Podcast every weekday, available on iHeartRadio and wherever you listen to podcasts, for even more.
In this edition of NHL Talk, the Arizona Coyotes sift through offers for last year’s leader in goals among NHL defensemen in hopes of shortening its rebuild timeline.
Chychrun is a High-Quality Player, Despite Going Through a Rocky Season
Coyotes defenceman Jakob Chychrun‘s name has been popular in hockey headlines over the last few weeks, with many teams inquiring about trade offers for the 23-year-old. Although he is having a down year, with eight points (two goals, six assists) in 29 games, he led all NHL defensemen with 18 goals last season. His decrease in production may not be all his fault, though, as Arizona has entered rebuild mode and sits 31st in the NHL standings with a 10-26-4 record.
“You have to look at the situation the team has been presented with this year,” says THW’s Haynes Evans. “They’re going through a full rebuild. He’s playing top-line minutes this season with guys like Anton Stralman, a veteran who’s kind of been in his down years these last few years… A lot of stress has been put on him to feel like he has to take this next step up in his game, and I think it’s really hurt him.”
Just last season, Chychrun posted a whopping 41 points (18 goals, 23 assists) in 56 games. This year, he has struggled both on and off the ice, struggling to find consistency and missing 11 games due to an upper-body injury (seven games) and COVID-19 protocols (four games).
“It’s also hard to, you know, play at the top of your game and consistently play like he was last year when your team is just not good,” says Evans. “They’re not playing well enough most games, especially to start the season, and it’s hurt them.”
As with many players, it is extremely frustrating being unable to use your skills and talents to your full advantage with a lack of support around you. This season, Chychrun is going through that exact situation.
“One of his biggest weaknesses so far this season is he really looked at times like he, I wouldn’t say give up, but he looked frustrated at his own play out there,” says Evans. “At times, you saw him not maybe working as hard in the corners as he did prior to maybe last season, the year before.”
Despite his struggles this season, Chychrun is still an extremely valuable asset. NHL general managers know what he is capable of, and his lower production rate this year is almost certainly just due to circumstance.
“He has a great shot,” says Evans. “I mean, you saw it last year, he led all NHL defensemen in goals… He’s a smart playmaker. He’s young, he’s a great leader. He knows what it takes to be an elite defenseman, and he’s growing into one of those in Arizona or wherever he ends up going.”
As trade talks continue to heat up around Chychrun, it seems more and more likely he will be moved out of Arizona with each passing day.
“At this point, knowing that it’s all but certain he’s going to get traded, it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when that happens,” says Evans. “He’s a great guy, great IQ, great presence in the locker room. And just overall, has a lot of strengths. But this year, just with the losing, you can tell it’s really getting to him, and it’s really affecting his play. I think he’s trying too hard, and he’s getting frustrated with himself, and it’s not helping him out.”
If Chychrun gets traded, the return for the Coyotes should be a good one. Arizona already has three first-round picks and five second-round picks in the upcoming 2022 NHL Entry Draft and would surely love to add more draft selections and prospects.
“General manager Bill Armstrong has been very adamant about what he wants for Jakob Chychrun and what he wants in return for guys that he’s moving, and he’s not going to budge,” says Evans. “He’s going to get what he wants out of it. And if nobody ends up presenting him an offer that he likes, he’s not going to move him. And that’s, at end of the day, how it’s going to be.”
Time will tell if the Coyotes do indeed move on from Chychrun and acquire assets for the future, or if they keep him along for the rebuild. With how often his name pops up in trade rumours, it seems his days in the desert are numbered.
“I think it’s really just going to take the right prospect, going to take the right pick… Maybe an early first-rounder, a first-rounder is huge when you already have three of them,” says Evans. “So, it’s going to be interesting in the next couple of days, maybe next couple of weeks, or maybe a year. We don’t know what’s going to happen, what the situation is going to look like, but expect an absolute return, Coyotes fans… What comes back in return for Jakob is definitely going to shave a year off this rebuild, it is going to be a phenomenal return for a guy like Jakob Chychrun.”
Thank you for reading this edition of NHL Talk, and make sure to listen to THW Podcast every weekday (Monday to Friday) to hear everything your favourite hockey writers have to say about the hottest topics around the league.