Oilers Hockey Analysts Are Divided Over a Jakob Chychrun Trade

The worst-kept secret around the NHL is that the Edmonton Oilers are looking for a dependable, left-shooting defenceman that can hopefully solidify their blue line. Up until now, there have been many names tossed around the trade rumour mill as a potential fit on the Oilers’ back end, such as Jake McCabe, Joel Edmundson, Mattias Ekholm, and Vladislav Gavrikov.

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Still, the biggest name available on the market is undoubtedly Arizona Coyotes defenceman Jakob Chychrun. He’s 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, a good puck mover, and reasonable defensively, and his $4.6 million cap hit on a contract that expires after the 2024-25 season, is extremely attractive. Moreover, since making his season debut on Nov. 21, he’s scored five goals, and added 18 assists in 23 games, while averaging 22:43 of ice time.

The Coyotes’ asking price is steep for Chychrun, and general manager Bill Armstrong has remained firm — they want two first-round draft picks, a second-round pick, or a prospect. However, the hockey analysts who cover the Oilers are torn on whether Edmonton should acquire the 24-year-old blueliner. Some feel he’d instantly make the Oilers’ back end better, but others feel he may not be the right fit. Let’s review what they’ve had to say.

Hockey Analysts Who Are Against the Oilers Acquiring Chychrun

Sportsnet’s Mark Spector is against acquiring Chychrun, feeling the Oilers should opt for a more defensive-minded, cycle breaker and crease-clearer, like Edmundson or Gavrikov. He recently gave credit to the Coyotes’ defenceman for his ability to carry the puck and noted that he’s top five in offensive zone carry-ins. Yet, on the other hand, the article also depicted that Chychrun makes less of an impact defensively, that he’s not a crease clearer, and stressed that he has unimpressive underlying analytics. Overall, the sentiment was that the Oilers should look elsewhere for help if their goal is to bring their goals against down.  

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Moreover, hockey analyst and former NHL player Rob Brown spoke on “Inside Sports”, saying his preference would be for Edmonton not to acquire Chychrun, as he noted, “He’d be your second best defenceman offensively, but he’s not what the Oilers are missing, because then you’re trying to outscore your mistakes.” He added, “Every team has someone on their back end that can stop the cycle, who can penalty kill and clear the front of the net, things like that, I think the Oilers need on the back end.”

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

Additionally, when analyst John Shannon was asked on “Oilers Now” on Jan. 9 if he’d pay the price for Chychrun from an Oilers perspective, he replied, “I don’t think the desire to have another puck-moving defenceman is at the top of the list. I think the desire to have somebody stay at home, in order to make sure there is a little bit of calmness in and around the goaltender when the puck seems to be sitting there and the Oilers have an inability to clear it.” Additionally, he was adamant that the team is looking for a safe stay-at-home defenceman. Overall, all three hockey analysts agreed that the best acquisition for Edmonton would be to add a defenceman with muscle, to stop the cycle on the back end.

Hockey Analysts Who Are in Favour of Oilers Acquiring Chychrun

The Athletics‘ Daniel Nugent-Bowman appeared on TSN 1260 in late December and discussed that Chychrun would meet the Oilers’ needs, saying, “When he’s healthy, I think he can push Darnell Nurse a little bit, for the potential number one spot on the left-hand side for the Oilers defence.” He also went on to say, “You look at some of the other options out there, Chychrun very much meets what this team needs, and also [aligns with] the championship contending window of having two more years on his contract after this one, at a very good cap hit of 4.6 million.” He summarized that Chychrun would be the perfect fit for the Oilers.

Furthermore, TSN’s Ryan Rishaug spoke of Chychrun’s excellent cap hit, and discussed that he’d be in favour of bringing in the Coyotes’ defenceman on the “Got Yer Back” podcast:

“You’d be getting him at $4.6 [million]. Stanley Cup championship teams need good players on good contracts, to play important roles in their lineup. When you have a chance to add $7 million worth of value for $4.6 [million] and a bunch of assets that aren’t necessarily going to help you win a cup in the next three years, I just think that’s why [the Oilers] maybe need to consider it a little bit more, on how well he’s been playing lately.” – Ryan Rishaug

Lastly, the Oilers colour commentator, who is connected to the organization, Bob Stauffer, also discussed that he’s changed his tune on Chychrun, but expressed that the price is still rather steep, when he said, “Three months ago I would’ve said, I don’t know about Chychrun, three months later I’m like maybe you’re better off instead of having a shutdown guy like Gavrikov or Edmundson that’s limited moving the puck, maybe you are better off getting having another puck mover that gets it up the ice. But, here’s the catch, the catch is Arizona wants first-rounders, not former first-rounders, and the ask is two first rounders and a number two.”

Chychrun Would Make the Oilers Better

As you can see, even the hockey analysts are divided if Chychrun is the answer for the Oilers’ back end. That said, the cost to acquire him is steep, but the fact of the matter is this — Connor McDavid is in his eighth season, and Leon Draisaitl is in his ninth. Both are in the prime of their careers, and it’s a shame at this point that they’re only battling for a wild card spot. These two players deserve the best supporting cast they can get, and Chychrun is the best defenceman on the market and instantly makes the team better, while also being on a very good contract for another two seasons. Sure, two first-round draft picks are high prices to pay, but even if Edmonton dealt the picks, the players selected in those spots would not have an impact on the team for at least another few seasons.

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

If the right deal is there for Chychrun, general manager Ken Holland should go for it. The defender can make a good breakout pass which would allow Edmonton to be even more dangerous in transition. At the same time, while he may not be a big bruising blueliner, it’s worth noting that in the shortened 2020-21 campaign, in 56 games, he made 2.6 stick checks per contest which ranked first among 180 defencemen. He also won 161 puck battles, which shows that he’s been effective without the puck on his stick. Additionally, his acquisition would lessen Darnell Nurse’s workload. I understand the need for a cycle-busting, physical defenceman, but if the Oilers added a player like Chychrun, it may signal to Nurse that he can settle down and focus on becoming a true shutdown player because when he struggles, it’s due to the fact that he’s trying to do too much all over the ice.  

Overall, the Oilers need a shakeup, and acquiring Chychrun would change the foundation of their defensive corps. The cost to acquire him is high, and it will come down to whether Holland has it in him to take the risk.

At this point of the season, would you trade two Oilers’ first-round picks, and more to acquire Chychrun? Have your say in the comments below!

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