It took 18 months, but Jakob Chychrun was finally traded – and arguably to a team that needs him more than any other team in the NHL.
It’s another big domino to fall in what has been a wild couple of weeks as the defenseman trade market plays itself out.
Let’s go through it all again.
The Bruins are believed to have shown interest in Chychrun about three or four weeks ago, but when it didn’t look like there was a path to a deal given the price, the B’s shifted gears to Vladislav Gavrikov in Columbus. The Blue Jackets thought they had a deal with the Bruins about two weeks ago, but the Bruins told the Jackets they needed more time, presumably to lose ground.
Meanwhile, Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan sent a memo to his colleagues around Feb. 19 saying he was ready to listen to pending free agent Dmitry Orlov, and well, that apparently changed everything. The B’s swung to what they thought was a better option and got a deal done on February 23rd. Great pickup for Boston.
That made Columbus fume. And climb. There are only so many first-round picks available.
The Jackets last Friday began reviving trade talks with former suitors on Gavrikov, reaching out to the likes of Edmonton, Los Angeles and Toronto.
The Maple Leafs, meanwhile, were already engaged to Chicago on defenseman Jake McCabe, although that deal didn’t come together until last Monday.
The Oilers showed some interest in Gavrikov, but it was clear to Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen that Edmonton was looking at Gavrikov as Plan B or Plan C. As it turned out, it was definitely Plan C.
That’s because the Oilers had been engaged in talks with Arizona on Chychrun for a two-week period leading up to Tuesday. Talks really heated up between the Oilers and Coyotes on Sunday and Monday, and at one point both sides felt like they were pretty close to something. But that deal fell apart, in large part because the Coyotes simply didn’t want to take money back in the form of a player contract. Even after trading Jesse Puljujarvi to Carolina on Tuesday morning, the Oilers couldn’t make a Chychrun deal work without sending back at least one player contract.
My sense is that Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong was willing to continue working on it with the Oilers, but Edmonton GM Ken Holland decided he couldn’t risk waiting until too close to Friday’s deadline and missing out on the other defenseman he had talks about.
It would be Mattias Ekholm. Holland called Predators GM David Poile on Feb. 23 to get the ball rolling on it. In that conversation, Poile informed Holland that the price for Ekholm had to include at least a first-round pick this year (with Nashville hosting the draft, that was important), plus prospect Reid Schaefer, drafted No. 32 last summer. The Oilers weren’t enamored of having Schaefer in on things, but they kept the conversation going with the Predators while also having parallel conversations with Arizona on Chychrun this past week.
When Holland informed Armstrong on Tuesday that he was out once and for all at Chychrun, he ended the deal at Ekholm with Poile. Having to include Tyson Barrie in that trade for cap reasons wasn’t an easy decision either. Barrie was a key member of the Oilers’ power play and a popular teammate. But the total price tag was worth it for Holland, to get a veteran top-four defenseman like Ekholm, who the Oilers hope will help stabilize their five-on-five game defensively.
Tuesday was also the last time the Coyotes and Kings spoke at Chychrun. I’d love to know how many times the two front offices talked over the past 12-plus months with the defenseman, who always seemed destined for LA, with the Kings’ big need on the left side. But it never happened. A Kings source told me Wednesday night that there had certainly been plenty of discussions with Arizona about Chychrun, but it never felt like they were that close to a trade.
And, of course, the reason Tuesday was the Kings’ last call with Arizona on Chychrun is that Los Angeles was looking to cement the deal with Columbus for Gavrikov (and goaltender Joonas Korpisalo) late Tuesday night.
The two clubs had actually been talking on and off for a while, but things got more serious on Monday and Tuesday when the idea of having both the defender and goalkeeper in the deal was introduced. Nice job by Kekalainen, finally, getting his first-round pick, albeit a conditional one, given the circumstances surrounding his failed deal with Boston. He scrambled pretty well.
And there you have it. The Kings, Oilers and Bruins — all potential Chychrun destinations — one by one fell by the wayside as options for Arizona as they filled their defensive needs.
That being the case, it’s no surprise that over the past 24 to 48 hours things have heated up between Arizona and Ottawa.
There were also other teams that talked to Arizona in the past week, including Washington, Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Columbus.
But the big appeal in the end for Arizona in gaining traction with the Senators was twofold. First, Ottawa didn’t have to send money back in a player contract. That was huge for Arizona. And second, the Coyotes felt Ottawa’s first-round pick, while top-five protected, was more appealing than any other pick on offer. That pick could end up anywhere from No. 6 to No. 16 — unless, of course, Ottawa makes the playoffs, which is well possible.
As others have reported, the Coyotes had a potential trade with Columbus involving Chychrun fall apart at the draft in Montreal last summer, which included the Jackets’ No. 12 first-round pick. So in the end, the Coyotes likely end up with a similar first-round pick from Ottawa. But they won’t end up with two first-round picks, which was part of the Coyotes’ request in a Chychrun trade for well over a year.
From a Senators perspective, the price was certainly softened from earlier talks with Arizona, where the names of prospects like Ridly Greig and Tyler Kleven were part of the Coyotes’ inquiries, on top of the rest of the draft package. That was considered far too high a price by the Senators, which is why the organization thought it was out of the Chychrun competition as recently as last week. Out, well, until the price dropped.
And it obviously did. Sens GM Pierre Dorion showed good patience, and he ends up filling a glaring hole on his blue line at a price he can live with. And while it’s a short-term boost for a team that has been playing good hockey, the real impact of the deal for the Senators will be felt over the next few years.
What a wild two weeks on the defense trade market, and that’s not even diving into the surprise trade of Filip Hronek to Vancouver from Detroit on Wednesday, or Shayne Gostisbehere ending up in Carolina; or Luke Schenn, Jake McCabe and Erik Gustafsson going to Toronto; or Jack Johnson on his way back to Colorado.
And we’re probably not done yet.
But imagine for a moment how differently the last two weeks could have gone.
Gavrikov was almost a Bruin. And where would that have left Orlov? And Chychrun could have easily ended up in Edmonton or LA. What would it have meant for Gavrikov and Ekholm?
So many overlapping trade talks surrounding a small group of blueliners. Let’s see how it goes after the playoffs.
(Top photo of Jakob Chychrun: Zac BonDurant / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)