For the past several years, Rob Blake and the Los Angeles Kings have been searching for a young, dynamic offensive left-handed defenceman. This type of player is hard to find, however, as there are few that exist in the NHL. Of the ones that do, even fewer are available for trade. So, Blake has patiently waited for one to become available, as he has held onto a plethora of assets to ensure he could pull off a trade if given the opportunity. Now, the opportunity has arisen, as Arizona Coyotes defenceman Jakob Chychrun is allegedly available.
Looking at a Jakob Chychrun Mock Trade to the Los Angeles Kings
An Overveiw of Chychrun
With Chychrun potentially becoming available, it would be in Los Angeles’ best interest to make a deal for him. However, the cost of acquiring him could be quite steep, as a player of his age, position, and skillset rarely hits the trade market.
Chychrun, the 23-year-old left-handed defenceman, stands at 6’2″, 209 pounds. He carries a heavy shot and is developing into a productive, high-end blueliner. Last season, he really broke out, as in 56 games, he scored 18 goals and 23 assists for a total of 41 points. This put him on pace to score about 60 points in a full 82 game season. For a 23-year-old defenceman, those kinds of numbers are spectacular. This season, however, Chychrun’s production is down, as he has just two goals and five assists for seven points in 26 games. While this is a significant drop-off compared to last season, it should not be read into too harshly, as it is likely more related to the Coyotes’ struggles as a whole rather than Chychrun individually.
What the Trade Could Look Like
Why It Makes Sense for Los Angeles
Despite giving up four assets for one, this is a trade that would really benefit the Kings. The team has been in search of a young, offensive left-handed defenceman, and Chychrun perfectly fits this mould. A player like Chychrun would not only be able to help the Kings now but also help them down the line, as he is only 23 years old.
Currently, the Kings have seen major struggles in offensive production from the back end. They have a total of only seven goals combined from all of their defensemen so far this season, which is subpar, to say the least. Adding Chychrun, who paced for 26 goals last season, would help the Kings make major strides towards fixing this issue immediately.
Additionally, Chychrun would fill a major positional need on the Kings roster. Between injuries and COVID-19, the Kings have seen several defencemen come out of their lineup. Specifically, with the recent injury to left-handed defenceman Alexander Edler, the team has a particular hole on the left side. They miss both his presence and production, which Chychrun could fill and then some.
Looking at Vilardi, arguably the centrepiece of the deal, there are a few reasons why he could end up being dealt. Right now in the Kings prospect pool, there are five players that are a tier above the rest: Quinton Byfield, Arthur Kaliyev, Alex Turcotte, Brandt Clarke, and Gabriel Vilardi, each of which the Kings would probably prefer not to part with. However, to make a trade for a talent like Chychrun or anyone else similar, at least one of them would have to be on their way out. As of now, if the Kings were to part with any one of those five prospects, Vilardi would likely be the odd one out.
Despite playing in a second-line centre role with the Kings last season (which looking back on he was not quite ready for) Vilardi has spent practically the entirety of this season in the AHL. This is somewhat of a questionable decision though, as Vilardi is more than capable of producing at the NHL level. Just last year, he scored ten goals and 13 assists for a total of 23 points in 54 games played with the Kings. This put him on pace to score about 35 points in a full 82 game season, which is fairly solid for a 21-year-old rookie.
Switching to Wing
So, why is he playing in the AHL this season then? The justification the Kings organization seems to be giving is that they are in the process of converting him from centre to wing. Despite this being what the Kings see as the best path for him, Vilardi does not seem too fond of this idea per a quote from a tweet from John Hoven.
“It’s just different. If I don’t have the puck as much, I don’t have that speed coming down the middle. It’s all right so far… I’d rather play center, but it is what it is, I gotta play,” Vilardi said.
With Vilardi’s apparent passive-aggressive dissatisfaction towards his new position change, a change of scenery would not necessarily be the worst scenario for him.
The next prospect the Kings could need to include in this deal would be centre Rasmus Kupari. Kupari, 21-years-old, has primarily served as the Kings’ third-line centre this season. Through 28 games, he has three goals and three assists for six total points in somewhat of a sheltered role. Make no mistake though, Kupari has shown flashes of his high-end skill and continues to possess potential top-six upside for the future of his career. As he continues adjusting to the pace and strength of the NHL, he will continue to improve, and the offensive production will come.
So, even though he is a fairly high-profile prospect, the Kings organization can still afford to part with Kupari without really feeling the effects in their prospect pool. Having one of the deepest and best prospect pools in the NHL, the Kings have a plethora of centre prospects with decently high upside that would make it so they hardly feel Kupari’s absence. The organization would still have all of Quinton Byfield, Alex Turcotte, Tyler Madden, Akil Thomas, Francesco Pinelli, Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Aidan Dudas, and Samuel Helenius down the middle. Similarly, to fill Kupari’s roster spot, either one of Byfield, Turcotte, or even Lias Andersson could get the job done. With this kind of organizational centre depth, losing Kupari would not be very detrimental at all.
Similar to Kupari, dealing Spence would come from a place of positional depth and strength. While the team is fairly thin with left-handed defencemen, this is not the case with right-handers, as other than centre, it is probably the organization’s deepest position. They are very strong at the NHL level, sporting Drew Doughty, Matt Roy, Sean Walker, and now Sean Durzi, along with Austin Strand right on the bubble. This strength continues with their prospect pool as well, as they boast Brandt Clarke, Brock Faber, Helge Grans, and Jordan Spence. Needless to say, the Kings have plenty of depth on the right side, so, if Spence were to be dealt, they would still have numerous options to use down the road.
First Round Pick
Ever since he took over as general manager of the Kings in 2017, Rob Blake has made a conscious effort to hold onto every one of the Kings’ first-round picks. In doing so, he has been able to draft Gabriel Vilardi, Rasmus Kupari, Alex Turcotte, Tobias Bjornfot, Quinton Byfield, and Brandt Clarke in the first round, helping to formulate one of the best prospect pools in the NHL. Due to all of the years Blake has held onto first-rounders and accumulated numerous other draft picks, the Kings prospect pool has become incredibly deep.
At this point in their rebuild, they can afford to finally move a first-round pick to improve their NHL roster. They have established enough prospect depth to the point where moving a high pick will not hurt their future, making this move for Chychrun all the more practical. Additionally, Los Angeles’ 2021 first-rounder will likely end up being lower in the first round than it has been in recent years.
Why it Makes Sense for Arizona
Despite him being the best defenceman, and arguably player, on the Coyotes roster, parting with Chychrun at this point would not be the worst idea for them. The Coyotes are relatively thin on prospects, specifically high-end ones, and trading Chychrun will give them the most value to bring those in. The team has struggled to find success for yet another season. At this point, tearing it all down and rebuilding seems like it could be the best solution, and although he’s young, moving Chychrun could definitely help them jumpstart this process, especially if they can get a compelling offer.
Other than Dylan Guenther (and Barrett Hayton if you count him), the Coyotes have a lack of high-end forward prospects. By getting a player like Vilardi, they would certainly be adding to their total. Still just 22 years old, Vilardi has the potential to become a key offensive piece to the Coyotes’ future. Not only could he be an important future player for the team, but he is also capable of contributing to the Coyotes now. If the team was open to giving him a big role, they could see him make some great plays and show flashes of what he can be while also showing up on the score sheet.
As far as the position he plays goes, Vilardi is clearly a little unhappy being moved to the wing. If the Coyotes decide to give him another look down the middle of the ice, it could work out even better.
Similar to what Vilardi would bring, adding Kupari to their prospect pool would just be another injection of young offensive talent to the Coyotes organization. A player with his speed, skill, and creativeness is perfect for a team in need of more offence. Additionally, Kupari is already up in the NHL, and while he has not made a huge impact yet, if the Coyotes were willing to put him in more of an elevated role than the one he’s in with the Kings, it could show some major benefits. His offence is very much there, which we saw last season being one of the top scorers for the Ontario Reign, LA’s AHL affiliate team.
If the Coyotes are going to move an offensive defenceman, it only makes sense for them to be getting one back as well, which they will with Spence. While he is by no means a replacement now or down the line for Chychrun, Spence still brings a lot to the table as a solid, puck-moving right-handed defenceman. Additionally, with right-handed defencemen being some of the rarest players in hockey, especially good puck-moving ones, Spence brings a little extra value, as no team could ever have too many solid right-handed D.
Overall though, Spence is having a solid start to his first professional season. Through 18 games with the Ontario Reign, he has no goals and eight assists for eight total points. This ties him for second on the team among defensemen scoring.
First Round Pick
Other than Vilardi, the Kings 2021 first-round pick would probably be the biggest asset moved in this trade. While it will likely not be a top-ten pick like it has been in years prior, the pick should end up somewhere around the 11-17 (ish) range. With the Coyotes already owning a handful of picks (the number varies based on conditions of certain trades) in this year’s first-round, adding another certainly wouldn’t hurt, as it will help them accumulate more depth and quality to the organization’s prospect pool.
Overall, it is still not certain whether or not Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong would actually move Chychrun. Although he has reportedly explored the idea, it remains just a rumour that has sparked some buzz around the NHL. However, if the rumours are true, the Los Angeles Kings should be all over Chychrun. He is exactly what the team has been looking for over the past several years. They’re also one of the few teams in the NHL that could actually pull off a deal.
While this Jakob Chychrun mock trade will probably not be exactly what a future deal will look like, it can serve to establish a framework for what could be considered fair and logical for both sides if they attempt to make a blockbuster trade such as this one.