It’s been some weekend for the Arizona Coyotes front office. Not unaccustomed to front office turmoil, which has included bankrupt ownership and embarrassing situations, the team may have hit rock bottom. Today they lost their general manager and president of hockey operations, John Chayka. For the time being the team has announced that assistant general manager Steve Sullivan will take over the general manager role on an interim basis.
John Chayka Terminates His Contract
Every NHL team realizes that when new ownership takes over there will be some changes. This is true in the business world, and the sports world is not spared from this fact. New owner Alex Meruelo purchased a majority share of the team in July of 2019. At that time it seemed he was very satisfied with general manager John Chayka. He even gave him a new contract extension in November of 2019.
Things started unraveling this weekend. Sources were saying that Chayka’s office had been cleaned out and he couldn’t be reached for comment. The Coyotes were also mum about the status of their general manager.
A day away from heading to the Edmonton Bubble and it’s unclear whether the Coyotes have a GM or not.
— Chierstin Susel (@ChierstinSusel) July 26, 2020
As Arizona Coyotes insider, Craig Morgan stated: why allow Chayka permission to pursue another professional opportunity and then pull the rug out from under him?
The Timing of This is More Than Detrimental to the Organization
If Chayka had been looking around for another opportunity, why did he not at least finish off the season and then end the relationship? Quite possibly he got frustrated with the whole pandemic causing the season restart to be delayed. Elliotte Friedman’s sources reported Chayka was going to Europe to be involved in an opportunity there in some capacity. Will he become a part of an ownership group of a soccer team there? Only speculation at this point. This writer has a source that states it’s in soccer.
Elliotte Friedman: “A month ago, Arizona Coyotes ownership received a request from another NHL owner to speak to GM John Chayka. Request was denied. There’s been speculation about the Buffalo Sabres. Also heard rumblings of the New Jersey Devils, who since hired Tom Fitzgerald.” https://t.co/mV6vC875vk
— NHL News (@puck_report2) July 26, 2020
It would seem that he has burned his bridges in the NHL. Any owner will not even consider hiring him. Maybe he’s ready to move on and that’s fine, but his choice of doing it in this fashion lacks emotional intelligence.
The Coyotes are heading to Edmonton today to participate in the Stanley Cup Qualifying series against the Nashville Predators. When front office issues take place at this time of the year it can be very distracting for the players, coaching staff, and fans. Will this drama upset the concentration the team needs to move on to the playoffs for the first time since 2012? Even back then, the team was involved in rumours that they were moving to Winnipeg. They were able to remain focused and move on to the Western Conference Finals.
Chayka’s Reign Was a Mixed Bag
Many Coyotes fans thought Chayka did some good things for the organization under stressful financial conditions. When Meruelo took over they went from barely clearing the salary cap basement to not having any cap space at all presently. Chayka managed to pull off trade after trade to gather such talent as Taylor Hall, Nick Schmaltz, Phil Kessel, Darcy Kuemper, Antti Raanta, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Jordan Oesterle, and Vinnie Hinostroza, to name just a few.
On the reverse side, he was involved in the embarrassing method that Shane Doan was told that the team didn’t intend to extend his contract after the 2016-17 season. Chayka actually told Doan at his favorite breakfast restaurant that he was not going to be offered a contract extension.
Many feel some of his contract signings were a bit overdone. Offering young Clayton Keller an eight-year contract worth $57.2 million was controversial seeing that Keller has had one good year out of three in Arizona. Then, he inked forward Nick Schmaltz to a seven-year $40.95 million deal after which he fell to a season-ending injury after playing just 17 games. Not to be upstaged by the eight-year $66 million contract he gifted Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Ekman-Larsson’s play has not been worth anywhere near the $8.25 million AAV he is being paid. The sad part of all these signings is the listed players have not lived up to the bag of money Chayka threw at them.
The End of a Mess
For Coyotes’ fans they must be wondering what is wrong with this franchise. From being supported financially by the NHL, to endless rumours which still exist of them moving to Houston, the organization has to be reeling. What has to be on the minds of the management and ownership of the Coyotes is will the events of the past few days be too much of a distraction for the team to perform? If they do lose to the Predators, they may have an excuse as to why. Good organizations don’t have all this drama and confusion. It doesn’t add to the success all franchises seek to accomplish.
Will the Arizona Coyotes get through this upsetting and disturbing chain of events? We will see. The Stanley Cup Qualifying series starts on August 2nd, and it will be without John Chayka.
Good luck picking up the pieces Steve Sullivan, you have your work cut out for you.