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Inside look at the Penguins involved in trade talks with Arizona at the draft

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News out of Arizona shows the Pens and Coyotes in trade talks two months ago

2017 NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7 Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Arizona Coyotes released an interesting “behind the scenes” look at candid discussions with their GM John Chayka having with other teams at the NHL draft. If you’re a fan of this type of thing, it’s pretty mesmerizing and cool of Arizona to toss this kind of look out there.

Here we have an ArizonaSports.com write up of it.

What came next in the video was a rare glimpse at what could have been.

“We’re working with [Penguins GM] Jim [Rutherford], Pittsburgh on a few things,” Chayka said. “I guess as it relates our [Ryan] O’Reilly discussions, is there anything there that would entice you that you would consider to be an important piece that you’d like as part of that deal? … Yeah that’d be difficult to do just with what we’re also talking about with Pittsburgh, it all goes into the mix, I guess. I’m still working on it here so I just wanted to gather some information I guess to see if it’s helpful. But let me keep working on it and we’ll keep talking.”

O’Reilly was one of this year’s biggest offseason trade pieces, a veteran center whom Buffalo eventually dealt to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka, Tage Thompson, a 2019 first-round pick and 2021 second-round pick. Context clues in the video tell us that particular discussion with Botterill happened before the Coyotes landed a different center, Alex Galchenyuk, by sending Max Domi to the Canadiens.

Chayka continued talking about his possible deal with Pittsburgh, apparently convincing Botterill that a possible trade with Pittsburgh wasn’t just a bluff.

“This is real, yeah, there’s a deal here that could make some sense,” Chayka said. “But yeah, if I wanted to do a deal in 24 hours with Jim, I know I could get there. So it is real.”

It’s curious what Chayka is talking about. Is he hinting on the phone to Buffalo Sabres GM Jason Botterill that Arizona could pick up a big ticket item - say Phil Kessel - from Pittsburgh “if I wanted to do a deal”? So perhaps Botterill should deal Chayka another high-priced player in O’Reilly before Arizona made it happen with Pittsburgh? That’s the biggest possible move, and perhaps too big being as Kessel’s agent said they were never approached about waiving his partial no trade clause, so it’s doubtful the Pens actually explored a Kessel trade with much seriousness this summer (much to the chagrin of certain media members).

This brings more questions than answers, especially hearing only one end of the conversation (and not knowing if it’s simply posturing or bluffing at that). But it sure is cool to see a look at the actual talk that goes on between the decision makers. If Chayka was alluding to Kessel, it’s clear it was a bluff and Botterill saw through it, since he didn’t end up acting on further talks with O’Reilly to AZ.

Interesting to think about, and especially since JB just left the Penguins, would he buy that Pittsburgh would cut in before him? Did he have a way to reach out (maybe directly to Rutherford or a friendly subordinate to find out if this information from Chayka was good or not). Obviously in the ultimate scheme of things, Buffalo later sent O’Reilly to St. Louis like the article above mentions.

And what of the juicy Chayka line to Buffalo, “We’re working with..Pittsburgh on a few things. I guess as it relates our O’Reilly discussions, is there anything there that would entice you that you would consider to be an important piece that you’d like as part of that deal?”

Is Chayka trying to cut around the Pens and send someone to Buffalo from Pittsburgh that maybe Botterill couldn’t get there directly? NHL general managers are crafty and the sharks are constantly circling the waters - and we’re not talking about San Jose folks!

As it would turn out, Arizona and Pittsburgh did not make a trade but the Oens and Sabres would just days after the draft when Conor Sheary and Matt Hunwick were shipped to Buffalo for a draft pick. Perhaps Arizona was trying to get Sheary from the Pens and send him up to Buffalo in part to acquire O’Reilly? We’ll never really know at this point.

Either way, it just goes to show how 99% of talks go no where. But it sure is fun to watch them jockey and haggle and try to see the potential options out there.