Amidst all the excitement and fallout of the Penguins beginning to remake their bottom six yesterday with dropping Kasperi Kapanen as Step 1, there was also a report about a possible trade target. It was a juicy one too, telling of Pittsburgh’s pursuit of one of the top targets around the league that’s out there in Arizona’s Jacob Chychrun.
A differing view between coach Mike Sullivan and GM Ron Hextall has influenced @penguins approach to NHL trade deadline.— Rob Rossi (@Real_RobRossi) February 24, 2023
Details in my story for @TheAthleticNHL ⬇️ https://t.co/52QWxESfPq
Rossi’s reports, as hinted to in the tweet, suggests Mike Sullivan is bullish about the potential add, but apparently the Coyotes want 2025 and 2026 first round picks as part of the return and that is causing the Pens to balk.
While some of those details sound a bit sensational or unreasonable, Pierre LeBrun did confirm that Pittsburgh and Arizona have had multiple conversations recently.
OK, it’s almost the deadline so let’s play ball. If the Pens wanted to add Chychrun, what kind of acquisition cost are we talkin’ here?
One thing that is clearly known is that Arizona is holding out for a high trade return on Chychrun, and they clearly haven’t gotten it yet since he’s not been traded — even though he’s been a healthy scratch for going on two weeks as this process slowly plays out. The price was set and has been often reported (including recently) by many to be two first round picks and a prospect. And by prospect they don’t mean any old ham and egger, they’re talking about ideally having it be on the level of “Brandt Clarke, a former top-10 pick and considered one of the most elite young defenders” type of prospect. So far Los Angeles has not agreed with that, and Chychrun has remained a Coyote.
Just on the surface, to play ball with the idea, if Pittsburgh wanted to send over an offer to Arizona with that price in mind, it probably means two first round picks (unlike and with due respect to Rossi’s report, I’d expect it to be much sooner picks than 2025 and 2026) as well as one of Owen Pickering or Ty Smith. That type of offer doesn’t give the Coyotes as much as a team like LA could, but part of the problem for the Kings is that they have dragged their feet and not gotten a deal done or presumably offered that much.
To balance out the salary cap and add on Chychrun’s $4.6 million cap hit, the Pens would likely have to trade out at least Brian Dumoulin (either to Arizona, or somewhere else). Add on waiving Mark Friedman (the team has eight healthy defensemen now and Friedman is a bit extra) and the math works.
Now that we’ve set a likely trade price, the question shifts to whether or now Chychrun be worth giving up so many valuable assets in order to add.
It’s a matter of perspective, but there are several very positive aspects in his favor. Chychrun is only 24-years old, and signed for two more seasons at a very team-friendly rate of $4.6 million. He’s a player that some analytic models really, really like - due to his offensive ability and how often he puts the puck in the net. He’s 6’2”, 220 pounds and skates very well.
Chychrun is worth the price. A top ten defenseman with two more years left at only $4.6M AAV. pic.twitter.com/j9lDazoJll— Russell Morgan (@NHLRussell) February 21, 2023
On the downside, this hasn’t been an ironman. Despite being in his seventh NHL season, Chychrun’s career-high for games is 68 — though, to be fair, he did appear in all 56 of Arizona’s games in the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 season. Chychrun is not always stout defensively, and sometimes has issues getting targeted on zone carries against. He’s also not out there to retrieve pucks from the corner. Some of those critiques on his game look overly harsh, considering that when he or his team is in control of the puck, he’s a weapon.
With 28 points (7G+21A) in only 36 games, this truly is the best time to sell on Chychrun for the Coyotes. He’s at a peak right now and is among the best in the NHL at what he does well.
The Penguins have quantity on the left-side next year with Smith, P.O. Joseph and Marcus Pettersson signed, but they badly need quality in that department. Chychrun would add that in spades and would solidify the blue-line and be the type of player Pittsburgh desperately needs.
However, is it wise for a late-term “contender” (in the most loose definition of that word possible) to be dealing off first round picks? Chychrun may have been brought to the trade market a few years too late for the Penguins, timing-wise it’s not the most ideal.
In all likelihood, Chychrun is too expensive in a trade cost sense for the Pens to add. Making a play at Jacob Chychrun would be a very bold move for the Pens, but it’s impossible to hit a home run if you keep the bat glued to your shoulder. One last parting thought — how many times in life is timing ever perfectly ideal? Not often. Perhaps GM Ron Hextall should remember that and emphasize improving his team.