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Coyotes GM Chayka: ‘Our ceiling is to win a championship’

Coyotes forward Phil Kessel is introduced to the media alongside general manager John Chayka and team president Ahron Cohen at Gila River Arena on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019 in Glendale, Ariz. (Twitter screenshot/@ArizonaCoyotes)

The Arizona Coyotes tried to find a perfect balance this offseason.

They brought in veterans Phil Kessel and Carl Soderberg to add more veteran leadership and offense to a young, defensive-minded team that nearly squeezed into the postseason last year.

So, what’s the ceiling for this more well-rounded squad?

“The ceiling, the way the team has been built, is we’re trying to win a championship,” general manager John Chayka told 98.7 Arizona’s Sports Station’s Bickley and Marotta. “Alex Meruelo (owner) has come in and has made it clear that he doesn’t want to be just a playoff team, he wants to be the best team.”

Jumping from fringe playoff contender to Stanley Cup winner in a year is very rare and Chayka knows that. He discussed how the team is still in a growth process and that this season is another step forward.

But, he likes the balance that is shaping out with the Coyotes, which is why he thinks his team could become a surprise contender.

“We will need a lot of young players to take huge leaps to make that (winning it all) possible,” Chayka said. “We have a good young core but we also have veterans who have won Stanley Cups. They are really good at teaching guys and saying what needs to be said.

“This group is going to push one another. There are going to be competitions for ice time and we want that.”

The offense could take a huge step forward if Kessel continues his impressive play from the past two seasons. Plus, if Nick Schmaltz and Clayton Keller can bounce back from down-years, the attack should be leaps and bounds better than in 2018-19.

(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

The defense allowed the sixth-fewest goals per game in the NHL last year, and it retained much of its difference-makers for this season.

In goal, Darcy Kuemper filled in beautifully for the banged-up Antti Raanta last year, and the hope is that the two will become an effective duo.

It will take some good fortune and bounce-back seasons but the Coyotes could surprise people this year. The ceiling of winning a title in 2019-20 seems a bit far-fetched, but there are good reasons to believe that Arizona could make a playoff push and maybe be a dangerous early round opponent.

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