Coyotes’ behind-the-scenes video reveals trade talks for Ryan O’Reilly
Coyotes general manager John Chayka’s office has a phrase displayed in large letters on the wall above and behind his desk, a seemingly appropriate mantra for the executive whose efforts to be analytical and judicious often come across in how he speaks.
“Don’t fail the plan, make the plan fail you.”
It was one of several revelatory moments in a behind-the-scenes video released by the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday, a 16-minute film that chronicled Chayka’s journey through offseason trade discussions, the NHL scouting combine, the draft and more. The video also caught a glimpse of Barrett Hayton, the Coyotes’ first-round pick in this year’s draft.
But perhaps no moment was more revealing than when Chayka was on the phone with Buffalo Sabres GM Jason Botterill discussing trade possibilities.
“Hey, I wanted to follow up with you on [Hudson] Fasching,” Chayka said, referring to the forward for whom the Coyotes would eventually trade. “I think we’d look to do that, I just want to make sure there’s nothing — just, you looking for a change and he’s looking for a change of scenery.
“No I mean we’ve got the same thing with a couple guys here, they’re just getting boxed out. I just wanted to make sure it was one of these things where he’s not like, he needs to play in the NHL or he’s disenchanted, he’s looking to get out or whatever the case may be.”
Chayka didn’t say specifically who the “boxed out” players were, but Arizona traded forward Mike Sislo and defenseman Brandon Hickey for Fasching back in June.
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.”
The Coyotes and Penguins have not made a trade this offseason, and Chayka told Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station in June that a report that said “the Coyotes have informed the Penguins [a trade for Phil Kessel] isn’t likely to happen for financial reasons” was inaccurate.
O’Reilly, 27, has played nine NHL seasons with Colorado and Buffalo and was 24-37-61 in 81 games last year for the Sabres.
DISCUSSIONS AT THE DRAFT
Once the video progressed to the night of the NHL draft, Chayka is seen on the draft floor talking on the phone.
“[The Athletic NHL reporter] Pierre LeBrun wants to know if I’m trading you my pick so you can play the Tkachuk brothers together,” Chayka said, most likely talking to the Calgary Flames, who boast Brady Tkachuk’s brother, Matthew.
Brady went on to be selected fourth overall by the Ottawa Senators this year.
The Coyotes wound up taking center Barrett Hayton from the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Chayka was still mic’d up when he was on stage drafting Hayton, and someone near him could be heard saying, “he’s going to be a beast.”
“Yeah, he is,” Chayka said. “He is. He killed the combine. Killed it. … Yeah, awesome kid.”