SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — John Chayka knows there is a rumor swirling that he never slept this offseason. On Thursday at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess resort, the Coyotes general manager admitted it was largely true.
“For me, it was like starting up a business,” Chayka said after the Coyotes Faceoff Luncheon. “If you’re not doing everything you can to be profitable, odds are you’re not going to be profitable.”
The Coyotes should profit from Chayka’s offseason work. Since late June, he and the Coyotes scouting and hockey operations staffs have stocked the cupboard with a handful of defensive prospects at the NHL Draft, signed free-agent defensemen Alex Goligoski, Luke Schenn and Jamie McBain, signed free-agent forwards Jamie McGinn, Radim Vrbata and Ryan White, re-signed Shane Doan, Connor Murphy, Michael Stone, Tobias Rieder, and made several other moves.
“We approached the offseason knowing we wanted to be aggressive and we needed to make some significant changes to the roster and we knew we had some players coming so we needed to be in the right position to support that growth,” Chayka said. “We needed to just hunker down and look at all the possibilities, all the potential deals.”
Chayka’s nocturnal habits first came to light when the Coyotes completed a deal with the Florida Panthers on Aug. 25 to acquire Lawson Crouse and Dave Bolland at 1 a.m. Arizona time — a deal Chayka said Thursday was months in the making.
“It never stopped all summer and when adrenaline kicks in and you get close on a deal, you can go days on end without needing sleep or rest or recovery,” he said. “I have a very understanding wife who allows me to work the hours I do.”
It may seem odd to complete a deal with a team for which it was 4 a.m. Eastern Time, but Chayka wasn’t sheepish about picking up the phone one final time and making the call that completed the deal.
“Credit to the guys in Florida because they work hard, too, and they were always available,” he said. “The league is pretty good that way. We understand that if there’s a deal, time doesn’t matter.”
The evolving product the Coyotes put on the ice will determine if Chayka was successful, but the new hockey operations triumvirate of Chayka, president of hockey operations Gary Drummond and executive vice president of hockey operations Dave Tippett has put its stamp on the franchise quickly.
“Oftentimes, we get into some pretty critical discussions,” Chayka said. “They’re never personal; they’re always based on what is best for the organization but we all come at it from different angles.
“Gary has a really logical mind that breaks down and synthesizes information really well. Tip has that experience and knowledge; he’s been through so much and he can draw upon that. I bring youth and energy and some ideas and some creativity.
“It’s kind of the same mix we’re talking about with our team.”
Chayka believes the Coyotes have assembled a good, albeit young team for the 2016-17 season, which opens Saturday at Gila River Arena against the Philadelphia Flyers. That said, he admits to being frustrated that he couldn’t do more.
“He’s going to tell you that for the next 25 years,” Tippett said, chuckling. “Nobody has a perfect team, but John is very intelligent and very thorough. Working with him and Gary, it’s been good. We collaborate on a lot of stuff and usually we come to the same conclusions.”
Its no secret the Coyotes would like to add a top-four, right-handed defenseman to their roster, but Chayka said there were other deals for forwards and even goaltenders they explored — deals that ultimately fell through or were deemed unwise.
“Even teams that win Stanley Cups are looking for ways to tweak or improve their team,” he said. “I have high standards for myself and this organization so you’re never done.”
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