NHL professional grades: Jakob Chychrun is a nice fit for the Senators, and a disappointment for the Coyotes

The trade

Senators get: Defender Jakob Chychrun

Coyotes get: 2023 conditional first-round pick, 2024 conditional second-round pick (originally from Capitals) and 2026 second-round pick.

Shayna Goldman: The long saga is finally coming to an end: after more than a year of speculation and Jakob Chychrun sitting out the last series of games, a trade has finally been made.

Time was not in Arizona’s favor here. The longer they waited, the more leverage they lost—and that became especially true when the Kings eventually pulled out of the race and instead added a defenseman from Columbus. So the returns here are underwhelming. It’s much less than the original question was, which isn’t the most surprising. But that’s not much more than what Detroit literally just got for Filip Hronek, and this is for a player with more upside and a better contract situation.

The fact that Arizona didn’t want to take back salary is what probably killed them here. Sure, there are ways to accumulate cap space without owing too much in salary (ie the Shea Weber deal), but that’s not the only way to build a roster, even for a rebuilding team. There were definitely better deals out there, probably ones with better returns on future assets as well. But hanging the deal on not taking much (or in this case, any) salary back legitimately kept management from getting a fair return on its best trading asset.

Chychrun may have had a rough season last year, but it looks to be the highlight of his career. The Senators add a legitimate top-pairing defenseman who could be a difference maker at both ends of the ice. He can suppress scoring chances, break out the puck with control and tilt the ice with his shot volume. This is going to be a game changer for an up and coming team that really needed to make some changes on the blue line to take the next steps forward. Even if Ottawa falls short this season (and they’re not out of it yet), there’s a lot more hope going forward because they just added the best defenseman available on the market.

After years of accumulating future assets, the Senators can afford to move draft picks for pieces of this caliber (and with Alex DeBrincat last summer). In both cases, Ottawa played their cards right and returned a better return than they gave up. All credit to management for playing this right and being patient; they found the perfect fit.

Senators grade: ONE
Coyote’s Character: D

Sean Gentille: So, this is how it ends. Chychrun’s epic journey, after 18 months and God only knows how many different trade changes, has landed him in Ottawa – the place that made the most sense then, now and in the future. Appropriate stuff.

That was my first thought: Of course it was the senators. It was always going to be the Senators. Chychrun was almost too good a fit with that core. Now part of the challenge is that Chychrun fit well everywhere. He’s a true No. 1 defenseman, with a full toolbox and a cap hit that represents, conservatively, half of his actual value over the remaining two years of his contract. He skates. He moves the puck. He hits. He defends. He has a bazooka with a shot and ambidextrous ability. And he’s still, somehow, only 24 years old.

Arizona GM Bill Armstrong knew exactly what he had, which is why it’s been so long since Chychrun’s trade request. Players with his skills, productivity and contract rarely exist – and almost never come on the market. So he mentioned the price and waited. And then he waited. And then he waited a little longer. Teams came and went, always with the understanding that Armstrong wanted two first-round picks and another prime asset in return.

Pierre Dorion, it seems, is a better waiter than Armstrong. This is as close to a steal as a three-asset deal involving a first-round pick can get, and represents a monumental disappointment for Coyotes fans given the build-up behind it. Of Arizona’s reported inquires from the Sens alone — young center Shane Pinto, top prospect Ridly Greig — they got the first-round pick. Not both. Whether you see it as Armstrong softening his question or finally blinking at the bargaining table, something happened.

Now Ottawa has a real No. 1 man. Chychrun had rehabbed some of his value after a rough 2021-22 before leaving the lineup for bubble wrap. Maybe he’s skating with Thomas Chabot, who deserves the help. Jake Sanderson and Artem Zub as a second pair look pretty good too. You can win relevant games with that group — and maybe more down the stretch, given that Ottawa’s young core of forwards continues to prove it’s as good as advertised. And for the record, they’re not out of the playoffs yet.

And more generally, what we have here is yet another example of NHL GMs – for one reason or another – not valuing elite players as much as the rest of the world. The return on Chychrun seems low, just as the return on Timo Meier seemed low, just as the return on Mark Stone seemed low. It is not an accident. However, there is something to remember the next time a big fish comes on the market. Ask for something and get it? Two separate things. Just ask Bill Armstrong.

Senators grade: ONE
Coyote’s Character: C

(Photo: Joe Camporeale / USA Today)

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