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Coyotes GM John Chayka: Report about Phil Kessel is ‘inaccurate’

(Arizona Sports & AP Photo)

Arizona Coyotes general manager John Chayka disputed Wednesday the contents of a report that said the team would not pursue Pittsburgh Penguins forward Phil Kessel for financial reasons.

The Athletic wrote that Kessel’s preferred trade destination would be the Arizona Coyotes, who are coached by former Pittsburgh assistant Rick Tocchet. “However, the Coyotes have informed the Penguins that such a transaction isn’t likely to happen for financial reasons,” Josh Yohe reported.

In an interview with Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station, Chayka was asked to address the team’s unwillingness to pursue Kessel, who has scored at least 20 goals in each of the last 10 seasons.

“I’d like to know more about it, too. I think it’s terrible reporting,” Chayka said. “It’s inaccurate across the board from start to finish. I don’t know where some things come up. I’m the one having trade discussions, those discussions with the Penguins haven’t occurred. Unless someone else is making calls that I don’t know about, I’m not sure where his information’s coming from.”

Yohe added that Arizona told Pittsburgh that it intended on sticking around the salary cap floor for the 2018-19 season. According to CapFriendly, the Coyotes were about $3 million above the $55.4 million cap floor, well below the cap ceiling of $75 million.

“To speculate on our economics I think is unfair,” Chayka added. “I think we’re trying to build out our group here. We’ve got a young group and we’re trying to build through the draft and develop. Again, I’m not sure where it’s coming from, but the basis of that reporting’s not coming from anything tied to the Coyotes and it’s certainly not anywhere close to factual.”

The main focus of Yohe’s story was that Kessel was not opposed to a trade, and that Pittsburgh is reportedly willing to move the 30-year-old. Though an experienced goal-scorer, Kessel’s $6.8 million cap hit through the next four seasons and alleged friction with Penguins bench boss Mike Sullivan could be reasons why there’d be incentive to move him.

From the Coyotes’ perspective, Arizona will have decisions to make on several expiring entry-level contracts over the next two summers, including Clayton Keller, Brendan Perlini, Christian Dvorak, Christian Fischer, Dylan Strome and Jakob Chychrun, among others.

More generally, Chayka touched on how the Coyotes’ on-ice success at the end of last season may effect his decisions as the general manager during this offseason.

“We certainly saw some growth,” he said. “We just want to continue down that path. You’re always wary of small samples. I think it wasn’t the whole season, obviously, but at the same time, we saw a lot of our young players develop the way we’d like to see them develop and players were catching on to what our staff was preaching and so you get that identity and you want to continue to grow off of it and build it.

“It’s one of those things where it takes some time to build and you’ve got to be patient and you’ve got to time things in the right way, and we’re not going crazy over here just throwing everything against the wall. But we wanted to make sure if we got an opportunity to improve our group, we would do that. With Alex Galchenyuk (who was acquired from Montreal via trade for Max Domi on Friday), that’s what we did.”

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