Sabres’ Interest in Chychrun Could Be Risky

While fans and media have been speculating about a possible Jakob Chychrun trade for some time, the Buffalo Sabres have emerged as a dark horse landing spot for the defenseman according to Jeff Marek of Sportsnet. Chychrun, currently part of the Arizona Coyotes, missed the start of the season due to a wrist injury and made his season debut this past week. Through his first four games, he has already tallied a goal and two assists.

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

While many NHL teams have been reported as interested in acquiring Chychrun, the Sabres have not been mentioned until recently. It’s possible that he could be of value to the Sabres, but it all depends on the asking price. 

Chychrun Fits the Timeline

The Sabres’ defensive core is relatively young, with most minutes being played by 22-year-olds Rasmus Dahlin and Mattias Samuelsson and 19-year-old rookie Owen Power. Currently, these three players lead the team in ice time with Dahlin carrying the most, averaging 26:08 per game. 

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The youngest players on the blue line haven’t been taking the majority of minutes for no reason, these three tend to be the best available in the lineup on any given night. Samuelsson, who missed a handful of games while injured, immediately impacted the team upon his return against the Montreal Canadiens on Nov. 22 where the Sabres won 7-2, breaking an eight-game losing streak. 

Mattias Samuelsson Buffalo Sabres
Mattias Samuelsson, Buffalo Sabres (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

While coach Don Granato relies on his young defensemen, it’s easy to question the sustainability of this pattern moving further into the season. They’ve already seen injuries to the core that had incredibly detrimental impacts on the team, and with Power being a rookie, there’s a concern about putting too much pressure on him at a young age. 

A positive to the defensive group being so young is the possibility of them being able to learn and grow together. The Sabres are a young team in most positions and aren’t expected to be incredibly competitive for another few seasons when their players eventually mature. Chychrun, who is only 24 years old, could reasonably fit within that timeline, while also relieving the pressure that the young defensemen are feeling in their current roles.

Coyotes’ Asking Price Could Be Too High

While it’s understood that the Coyotes have been interested in trading Chychrun for some time now, one of their biggest obstacles has been the asking price. As reported by Marek in October, it remains the “equivalent of two first-round draft picks, plus. So, that would be a combination of prospects, picks and players as well.”

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The Sabres certainly have a deep enough prospect pool to interest the Coyotes, however, it’s possible that the price would be too high for the team to afford right now. Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams has placed importance on team culture and bonding, especially among the younger players who have come up to the NHL together through time spent in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Rochester Americans. If pieces of the ever-growing and developing dynamic get traded away, there’s no guarantee that Chychrun could fill the hole. 

Further, it’s likely that some of the players getting traded for Chychrun could be underperforming forwards such as Casey Mittelstadt or Victor Olofsson, or younger prospects who are currently playing in the AHL. If the Coyotes ask for the prospects in addition to the already established players, it could become difficult for the Sabres to replace Mittelstadt, Olofsson or any other forwards with players who could help the team in the long term.  

Casey Mittelstadt Buffalo Sabres
Casey Mittelstadt, Buffalo Sabres (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

One possible solution to the trade dilemma would be finding a way to trade some of the Sabres’ NCAA prospects, such as University of Michigan goaltender Erik Portillo or University of Minnesota defensemen Ryan Johnson. Johnson returned to Minnesota for his senior year this season, making him a free agent at the end of the season should he choose not to sign with the Sabres. Portillo, while only a junior at Michigan, has expressed interest in completing his degree before moving to the NHL. 

While Johnson is in more immediate danger of walking away from Buffalo than Portillo is, Adams could use a Chychrun trade as a chance to receive something for either player, rather than risking the potential of losing them for nothing. As it is with any big move, risks will be made that have the potential of either turning out amazingly well for the team or detrimental to growth already happening. With multiple teams being interested in Chychrun, we’ll have to wait and see what the Sabres are willing to put on the line to acquire him.

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