Red Wings Could Solidify Defense Core with Coyotes’ Chychrun

No stranger to dropping bombshells, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman revealed in his recent “32 Thoughts” column that the Arizona Coyotes are listening to offers for 23-year-old defenseman Jakob Chychrun. The news sent shockwaves through the NHL as players of Chychrun’s stature and in his age group rarely hit the trade block. Friedman writes:

…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.

– Elliotte Friedman

The Detroit Red Wings are actually loosely connected to Chychrun already. Then-general manager (GM) Ken Holland traded the 16th pick in the 2016 draft along with the remaining year of Pavel Datsyuk’s contract to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for the 20th and 53rd picks in the same draft. While the Red Wings wound up with Dennis Cholowski and Filip Hronek with their picks, the Coyotes took Chychrun at 16th overall. Since then, Chychrun has 48 goals and 128 points through 316 regular season games with Arizona.

To this day, some fans still lament the deal that paved the way for Chychrun to land in Arizona. The Red Wings needed a top-tier defensive prospect at the time (as most teams do) and while Cholowski offered some promise at one point in time, he is no longer with the organization. To some extent, making a move to acquire Chychrun would right a wrong, and it would go a long way towards solidifying a defensive core in Detroit that already looks very promising. That, among other reasons, is why current GM Steve Yzerman has to be doing his due diligence and seeing what it would take to land the Coyotes defenseman in Motown.

Chychrun Will be in High Demand

To reiterate, 23-year-old defensemen who are no strangers to playing north of 20 minutes a night almost never become available. Patrick Brown, my colleague on the Red Wings team here at THW, is also a credentialed reporter for the Arizona Coyotes, so he has observed Chychrun up close and personal, and he knows what the young defenseman can provide for his team.

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

“He’s a competitor, and he’s a leader,” Brown said of the Coyotes alternate captain. “He can quarterback a power play, has an incredibly powerful shot, and is smart on defense. Before this season started he was thought of as untouchable, and seemed to be a leading candidate to become the team’s future captain.”

“He’s a great locker room guy, is extremely well-spoken, and is a model player for any franchise. It would be a bummer to see him leave The Valley.”

Related: Coyotes News & Rumors: Chychrun on the Block, Arena Updates & More

After this season, Chychrun still has three seasons left on his deal which carries a cap hit of $4.6 million. Given all the things that Brown outlined, adding him to a team on that kind of a contract has to be seen as insane value. This should lead to a bidding war between at least half a dozen teams that are eager to add a cornerstone piece to their blue line.

With Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong setting the price high (as he should), a bidding war would ultimately lead to the type of return that the rebuilding Coyotes have to pounce on.

“In my opinion, it’ll need to be a package of high-end prospects and first-round draft picks, because whoever would end up with him won’t even need Arizona to retain any salary,” Brown commented.

There is also the fact that, at 23 years of age, Chychrun could just as easily stay with the Coyotes and become that building block that most of us assumed he already was. It’s one thing when a team is trying to sell a player they NEED to move for one reason or another, but it’s a completely different situation when the team in question is under no obligation to move on from the player. Armstrong and the Coyotes can rest easy knowing that even if the right offer isn’t out there, they still have a young, star defenseman on their hands that they can build around.

Why the Red Wings Need Chychrun

If you know anything about the Red Wings’ prospect pool, it might seem kind of crazy to suggest that the Red Wings need to go out and move mountains to acquire a young defenseman. Moritz Seider has become the team’s top defenseman at just 20 years old. Gustav Lindstrom has become a quiet but solid presence on the team’s bottom pairing at age 22. Simon Edvinsson, the team’s top pick in the 2021 draft, looks to be a lot closer to the NHL than some, including myself, anticipated. Donovan Sebrango and Albert Johansson could be battling for an NHL roster spot next season. The list goes on.

When it comes to defensive prospects and young defensemen in general, the Red Wings are pretty much set for the time being.

Moritz Seider Detroit Red Wings
Moritz Seider leads the way for the Red Wings top young defensemen (Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

However, it is important to take a step back and address the unpredictable nature of prospects. Part of the reason that it is great that the Red Wings have so many defensive prospects is because the odds will tell you that all of them aren’t going to become NHL players, let alone star players in the NHL.

If somebody offered you a boat or a mystery box, which would you take? To quote Peter Griffin, “a boat is a boat, but the mystery box could be anything – it could even be a boat!”

While I would never advocate for dealing all of a team’s prospects because the odds dictate that might be a wise decision, there is something to be said for dealing from a position of strength to add a piece that is more of a sure thing. Would you rather have, for argument’s sake, William Wallinder and everything that he can be, or Chychrun and everything that he is? While he has had his struggles this season as the Coyotes’ top guy on the blue line, he was one of the NHL’s biggest surprises last season when he recorded 18 goals and 41 points through 56 games, cementing his ability to produce at both ends of the ice. If the Red Wings can acquire Chychrun, it means there isn’t as much pressure on their prospects to pan out into what we’re all projecting them to be. If Edvinsson needs time before becoming a top line guy, adding Chychrun affords him that time.

With three years left on his deal at a highly reasonable cap hit, Chychrun would also present some cost assurance for Yzerman, who has meticulously handled the Red Wings’ salary cap picture so that the team looks to have plenty of cap space now and into the near future. He would also join Robby Fabbri as the only player on the Red Wings’ roster signed past the 2023-24 season.

Finally, with Seider, Hronek and then Chychrun, the Red Wings would have half of their defense group in place for the foreseeable future. All three are under the age of 25, so Detroit could head into the next decade with those three in tow. Add in Edvinsson, and you’ve got a projected top four of:

Chychrun Seider

Yzerman could then fill in the bottom pairing with whatever veteran or young players he sees fit – at this point, the top four is pretty much set.

Red Wings Will Have to Pay Up

Make no mistake: Yzerman, despite his history as a GM, is not going to fleece Armstrong in a deal for Chychrun. The Red Wings will have to win a bidding war, and that could raise the price to a point where it no longer makes sense for Yzerman and the Red Wings. That being said, Brown offered up his thoughts for what a deal between Arizona and Detroit could look like.

“I honestly think it would take far more than Yzerman would be willing to give up,” Brown began. “If I had to guess, you’d be looking at a package of Detroit’s 2022 first-round pick, a strong defensive prospect such as William Wallinder, or Albert Johansson, and potentially even an NHL-ready forward like Jonatan Berggren.

Here’s what I could see happening if I’m trying to make a deal: Coyotes give up: Jakob Chychrun and Montreal’s first-round pick (2022) for Johansson, Berggren, the Red Wings’ 2022 first-round selection and possibly even a 2023 first-round pick. Keep in mind Montreal’s pick becomes Carolina’s first-rounder if Montreal’s own pick ends up in the top 10, which is almost assuredly going to happen now.”

Jonatan Berggren Grand Rapids Griffins
Jonatan Berggren, Grand Rapids Griffins (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

With the parameters set by Brown, I’m going to up the ante and include struggling winger Filip Zadina in a potential deal. While I have already taken the stance that the Red Wings and their fans need to show patience with the young Czech winger, if you’re going to move him, it would be in a move like this one. To some extent, it becomes reminiscent of the move Yzerman made while he was GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning that sent former third overall pick Jonathan Drouin to the Canadiens in exchange for defenseman Mikhail Sergachev.

Related: Red Wings’ Zadina is Far From A Problem

Zadina, the sixth pick of the 2018 draft, is in the midst of a miserable season where he has just 10 points through 30 games. His value certainly isn’t where it was a year ago, but at 22 years old, he still has time to overcome his struggles and become the play-driving winger he was projected to become on draft day. Pair him with Wallinder or Johansson and another prospect (possibly Berggren), as well as a first round pick, and you’ve got a strong offer on the table. And if you’re looking at this and thinking “that’s a lot of winger talent to give up,” the Red Wings will be able to address that over the coming years, be it in the draft or free agency.

Chychrun is a Difference-Maker

“I’ve been reminding our readers since Friedman dropped his story that just because Bill Armstrong is listening to offers doesn’t mean he’s going to actually deal him,” said Brown, something that fellow Coyotes reporter Craig Morgan backed up on Twitter.

“The fact of the matter is, at 23 years old, Chychrun is a cornerstone of the rebuild. He’s captain material, on a team-friendly contract, and incredibly talented,” Brown added.

There is no doubt that a Chychrun trade would make waves for whatever team acquires him, but make no mistake, he is not without his faults. He has yet to play a full 82-game season partially because of the pandemic, but also from 2017 to 2019, he suffered two separate knee injuries that forced him to miss significant time. While this would be a lot more concerning if he were in his 30’s rather than his 20’s, the fact remains that two different knee injuries before his 24th birthday isn’t something to dismiss. This is where the buyer beware comes in – it sure would be disappointing to give the Coyotes a king’s ransom just for his knees to give out yet again (knock on wood).

There will still be suitors for Chychrun and from the sounds of things, there already are. While the cost of making this trade is going to be a lot for any team to stomach, the opportunity to add a player of this caliber is something that has to be explored. Making this move would make the Red Wings’ defense better today and for the next decade. For that reason alone, it’s worth picking up the phone.

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