Greetings Pens fans. If you're like me you spend a lot of time thinking about how the Pens could improve their roster. And a lot of times you end up on Fantasy Island. Well take a trip to that destination with me as I want to talk about a trade proposal. You've likely heard rumors that this player is available. Would he make the team better? What would it take for the Pens to acquire him? Let's talk about Jakob Chychrun.
Chycrun is the best player on a perennially bad team. Arizona drafted him 16th overall in 2016. The Coyotes defender averages around 23 minutes per game. At 6'2" and 210 lbs he has NHL size and the skill to play on a top pair. The lefty is averaging 0.4 points per game. For reference that's on par with Jeff Petry. Chychrun is playing on an RFA bridge deal at a $4.6m cap hit through the '24-25 season.
That contract fits perfectly in the Penguins window of the next three seasons. The player would instantly be the best left-handed defenseman on the roster and arguably their 2nd best overall behind Kris Letang; certainly neck and neck with Petry. At 24 years old (turns 25 in March) the only players currently on the roster who would be younger than him are PO Joseph and Ryan Poehling. His youth and offensive acumen from the left side of the defense address two of the three biggest issues with the current roster.
If you look Chychrun up on an advanced stat site like Natural Stat Trick, Evolving Hockey, or look at Micah or JFresh's player evaluators, you'll find that Chychrun shoots a ton from the point, defends well, and is cursed to play for Coyotes. If I had to distill the strengths and weaknesses of his individual game I'd say they're:
- Wins puck battles
- Defends with skates, size, and stick
- Times pinches well
- Creates Exits by carrying the puck rather than passing it
- Limited passing as the primary attacker
Defensively he's solid and has the strength and puck battle skills that GM Ron Hextall coveted this offseason. I can see him contributing to the Penguins attacking style of pinching down the boards on offense to retain possession. There's an interesting question about why he's not an effective passer on the breakout and on the attack. Does Chychrun not have that element in his game? Or are his teammates simply not getting open? If he were to join the Pens it'd be interesting to see him utilize his teammates, especially in the top six, and what kind of passer he could be.
The biggest blemish by far is Chychrun's health. The most important ability is availability. Chychrun has only played one full season and it was the COVID shortened '20-21 year. He's coming off of both ankle and wrist surgery this offseason. Honestly it means he'd fit right in as Penguin.
If he's so good why are the Coyotes trading him? The first reason is they are going through a rebuilding period (when aren't they?). The team is bad but has a few young pieces to try and build around. So they need 1st round picks. Currently they only have their own 1st. They own a boatload of 2nds in the 2024 draft and about $25m in cap space. Any decent player they can trade at the deadline should be moved for draft capital. Typically teams do this to players on expiring contracts. Chychrun is on a sweetheart deal for two more years. But the second reason to trade him is his NMC that begins next season. Trading him now allows Arizona to shop him to a broader market and find the best deal possible.
Arizona is asking for a king's ransom to acquire Chychrun. According to Jeff Marek - "It's essentially the equivalent of two first-round draft picks, plus. So, that would be a combination of prospects, picks and players as well." Can the Penguins make that kind of a deal? Would they even want to? Hextall has been reluctant to part with 1st round picks. But assuming they go all-in on the next three years and think this player is worth the price what would a trade look like? Here's my best effort at making it work.To the Pittsburgh Penguins
- Jakob Chychrun
- Nick Bjugstad
- Brian Dumolin
- Brock McGinn
- Ty Smith
- 1st Round Pick in 2023
First a quick disclaimer - I don't care about later picks. They're magic beans to me. So if you think one team needs to throw in the obligatory 3rd round pick to balance the scales be my guest. I'm not going to sweat those details.
Chycrun gets the reported return of a 1st round pick, a great prospect (Smith) who is the heir apparent to Chychrun, and a roster player they can flip at the deadline for even more picks (Dumolin).
The Bjugstad for McGinn portion is there to make the money work without the Coyotes retaining salary. Another option instead of McGinn would be to send Teddy Blueger to the desert. I don't think the Pens would do that but the Coyotes might want him just to flip him at the deadline for yet another pick. Until last week you could've put Kasperi Kapanen on this list as well. But now that he's actually dressing for games again I think the Pens are also likely to keep him. Bjugstad has been a Penguin before. His time here was derailed by injuries. But his size and flexibility to play Center or Wing as right handed shot remain useful traits for the black and gold.
The Penguins also get about $900k in cap space. This is another item they desperately need as in the event of an injury they don't have enough cap space to recall a player from the AHL. The Coyotes have an absurd amount of cap space right now so $900k is a drop in the bucket for them. They have plenty left over to weaponize if they so choose.
This deal makes the Penguins better for the next three seasons. It gives the Coyotes at least one more 1st round pick, likely two if they can trade Dumolin, and a very good prospect in Smith. Each team gets what they want. It seems just crazy enough to work! What do you think? Would you make this deal?