Jakob Chychrun is still unhappy and the Ottawa Senators are still on the lookout for reinforcements on the blue line. Evidently, there is a deal to be made between general manager Pierre Dorion and the Arizona Coyotes — both parties should cut the bluster and find a way to strike a trade at the earliest opportunity.
Chychrun was extremely direct in his comments to the media earlier this week, reiterating his desire to move to a franchise capable of contending for the Stanley Cup soon. Dorion, meanwhile, has been similarly open about his hopes of adding another defenceman to the mix.
It may only be the first week of training camp, but it’s already clear that the Sens and ‘Yotes remain likely partners in any Chychrun trade. With that said, let’s dive into new quotes about the situation, unpacking what it means for the Canadian Tire Centre club.
Jakob Chychrun: Unhappy in Arizona, Still Wants Trade
Firstly, it’s worth revising the backstory that underpins Chychrun’s frustrations in Arizona. The 24-year-old has been regarded as a rising star for a while, mainly due to his combination of puck-moving ability and defensive fortitude.
Signed to a $4.6 million annual average value contract through 2024-25, he is an important asset for the Coyotes and has the hallmarks of a top defenceman. In other words, he is the kind of piece every franchise, rebuilding or otherwise, would like on their books.
However, Chychrun isn’t happy with his current situation. He hasn’t scratched the surface of his potential since debuting in 2016-17, registering 142 points (53 goals, 89 assists) in 337 regular-season appearances. While those numbers are fine, the Boca Raton-born blueliner is behind where he expected to be at this point in his career, mainly due to Arizona’s status as a slow rebuilder. He’s fed up with losing and believes now is the right time to divorce the franchise that drafted him six years ago.
“The team approached me a couple of times, one before the [2021-22 season], one early in the season and we just had discussions about where I was mentally and where the team was at,” Chychrun said, as the Coyotes reconnected at training camp. “Knowing the type of competitor and person that I am, they indicated if this rebuild was going to be hard or difficult on me that, if I wanted to be in a different situation, they were going to be willing to and make that happen.
“[I] decided to take them up on that offer and try to move on to a better situation [because of] my desire to win in this league. Careers are so short, the time flies by, and I’m in my seventh year in the NHL. It’s just crazy.
“I don’t want these years to keep going by and be 10, 12 years in and not had a real good chance at not only the playoffs, but winning the Stanley Cup. That’s really my mentality and where I’m at and I think the team understands that, to get moved to a situation with a chance to win and a team that’s fighting for the Stanley Cup.”
While the Senators aren’t in the silverware conversation for this season, they took a major step forward in the offseason and are an awful lot closer to challenging for titles than Arizona. They also have the cap space to accommodate Chychrun’s contract.
Although the 6-foot-2 blueliner’s modified no-trade clause doesn’t kick in until next season, meaning he is powerless to block a trade in the near future, there are reasons to believe he would enter a marriage of convenience with the Senators.
Acquiring a Defencemen Still a Priority for Pierre Dorion
Dorion was the offseason’s biggest winner, adding Claude Giroux and Alex DeBrincat to an ambitious roster. But he didn’t lock in any defensive improvements and is instead relying on Jake Sanderson to make an impact in his rookie campaign.
As a result, the strength of Ottawa’s blue line is the major unknown factor heading into preseason. Are the defenders available to head coach D.J. Smith capable of leading the Senators back into the playoff picture? Time will tell, but that’s the aim.
“We want to play meaningful games until the end of the year,” said Dorion of his ambitions for 2022-23. “We want to be in it at the trade deadline.”
Ottawa finished last term 27 points beneath the playoff line with a 33-42-7 record. It will be difficult to reverse the margin in one season, especially without the acquisition of a seasoned defenceman to add quality to the back end.
When asked about his desire to add another player to the mix, Dorion added, “Last year, at the end-of-the-year press conference, I talked about how adding a defenceman might be the toughest thing to do. We are excited about some upcoming defencemen. We’ll see how things shake themselves through camp. D.J. said it best when he said there could be some juggling there.
“If we feel can improve, we’ll do [a move] right now. We’ve got a lot of cap space left.”
Senators Trading for Chychrun Would Make Sense
In the latest episode of his podcast, NHL insider Chris Johnston explained why acquiring Chychrun would be a logical move for Ottawa.
“The Senators are a team to link him to that probably makes a lot of sense,” he said on The Chris Johnston Show. “They’re the team that has been most aggressive in the offseason at trying to improve their group. They have a clear need on the blue line. There are some synergies there. It’s not to say the trade will happen, but it’s a situation to keep an eye on.
“A number of different teams have expressed interest in Chychrun and kicked tyres on [a deal]. That’ll continue, [the player] speaking publicly does underline the situation and get some attention, but I look at Jake DeBrusk who spoke publicly but has since rescinded his trade request. It doesn’t always guarantee a move will happen, but that’s certainly what the player would like to see for his career. He’d like the chance to play playoff games.”
Ottawa’s quality deficit at the back has been well-documented over the summer. They made great strides in offence but are opening training camp with the following defence corps:
|Thomas Chabot||Artem Zub|
|Jake Sanderson||Travis Hamonic|
|Nick Holden||Nikita Zaitsev|
|Erik Brännström||Jacob Bernard-Docker|
|Dylan Heatherington||Lassi Thomson|
As a result, the Senators remain a likely destination for Chychrun: they would like to add a high-quality defenceman, have plenty of available cap space, and hold a sizeable stack of potential trade assets. But he won’t come cheap.
“Well, if you think about it, he’s a No. 1 [defenseman]… with a team-friendly contract and someone that generated 18 goals the year before, so he has a lot of impact on your team,” Arizona general manager Bill Armstrong said in March. “You’d be crazy to move him unless it moved your team forward.”
If the Senators want to upgrade on the blue line, Chychrun is a prime candidate — in no small part due to his ability to play on the left and right. It’s a situation to monitor as training camp rolls on.
Ottawa Poised for Preseason Opener
Finally, the wait for the return of Senators hockey is over. They return to the ice on Saturday, Sept. 24 for a double-header vs. the Toronto Maple Leafs, marking the end of a long summer in Ottawa. Here are the away team’s rosters ahead of puck drop:
After the split-squad contests are played out in Toronto, the Senators will travel to Manitoba to face the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, Sept. 27. Five more exhibition fixtures will follow, before Smith and his players open the regular season on the road vs. the Buffalo Sabres on Oct. 14.
Will the Senators execute a trade before the season begins? We’ll soon find out.
Luke is an award-winning freelance sports journalist from London, England. In addition to his work on the Washington Capitals and Ottawa Senators for THW, he covers the Elite Ice Hockey League for British Ice Hockey and world soccer for numerous publications, including on Substack. To stay up to date with his content, follow @LukeJames_32 on Twitter.