It’s rare to see a player like Jakob Chychrun available on the trade market. Young, talented defensemen on affordable contracts are usually pieces to build a franchise around, even for a rebuilding club like the Arizona Coyotes.
There’s no guarantee the Coyotes trade Chychrun, but there’s been increasingly feverish speculation and rumors surrounding his future in the desert. At the very least, the smoke signals that he’s not an untouchable as general manager Bill Armstrong continues his roster’s complete demolition.
Chychrun’s availability should be music to the ears of general managers around the league. It raises a few questions, however: Which teams would logically be in on him based on need and would they have the right assets to entice Arizona? Exactly how good is the player? What’s a fair price to pay?
Let’s dig in.
Chychrun’s performance and the lack of trade value comparables
Nobody can question the fact that Chychrun’s play this season has been rough.
Arizona has been outscored 31-9 with their No.1 defenseman on the ice at five-on-five. That goal differential has been exaggerated a bit due to tough puck luck, but his 44.1 percent expected goal share tells us he’s legitimately been hemmed in his own end and struggled to drive play. His offensive production has also cratered.
That said, a down season shouldn’t obfuscate Chychrun’s immense value. Some decline should have been expected given how offensively devoid the environment is around him; it’s part of the reason we listed Chychrun as one of our top regression candidates heading into this season. He may not be an elite No.1 defenseman who can finish top-10 in Norris Trophy voting like he did last season, but with his offensive skills, puck-moving prowess and strong defensive frame, he’s a safe bet as a top-pairing caliber fixture.
According to Jeff Marek of Sportsnet, the Coyotes are looking for a “young player, a high-end prospect plus a first-round pick.” The comparable Marek cited was the trade that sent Brent Burns and a 2012 second-round pick to San Jose in exchange for Charlie Coyle, Devin Setoguchi, and a 2011 first-rounder.
Usually, the market price for a certain caliber player is influenced by previous trades. This is a bit of a unique situation, though, since Arizona is looking to move on from a 23-year-old defender who has term on his contract — three full seasons after this year at an average annual value of $4.6 million.
A very general way to gauge from past trades is looking at defenders who had term on their contracts at the time of their moves — so, no deadline rentals.
In some of these cases, ‘term’ was just one year, as it was for Seth Jones (who extended immediately upon the trade), Rasmus Ristolainen, and Nick Leddy. In some deals made closer to the deadline, players had the remainder of that season plus one more year (Ryan McDonagh, Jake Muzzin, Brandon Montour, and Alec Martinez).
Ryan Graves had two years left on his contract when moved to New Jersey last summer. Colin Miller had three years, Brady Skjei had over four, while Mike Matheson had six at the time of their respective moves.
None are the perfect comparable, though, because none were as young or good as the 23-year-old is.
It’ll also be intriguing to see what Arizona wants in return. Future assets, including picks and prospects, are likely high on the priority list. Already, they’ve been stocking up on draft picks with up to three first-rounders this year and five second-rounders as things currently stand. What’s tricky for a team departing with a young prospect they feel has high upside is deciphering whether they could become an impact player comparable to Chychrun. Some teams have a tendency to overrate future assets, and not see just how challenging it can be for a draft pick to reach that status at the NHL level.