GM: Coyotes’ rebuild at 40% with Jakob Chychrun trade a big next step

Feb 21, 2023, 11:42 AM
General manager Bill Armstrong of the Arizona Coyotes attends rounds 2-7 of the 2021 NHL Entry Draf...
General manager Bill Armstrong of the Arizona Coyotes attends rounds 2-7 of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft at Gila River Arena on July 24, 2021 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Kelsey Grant/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo by Kelsey Grant/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’s been nearly a month since the Arizona Coyotes last outright lost.

A nine-game points streak puts Arizona at 20-28-9 as of Tuesday morning and comes as the team watched its best player, Jakob Chychrun, head to the sidelines as the team enters negotiations to trade him.

Considering the obvious rebuilding phase the Coyotes find themselves in, there’s a likely temptation to do more to tank with clear No. 1 prospect Connor Bedard on the board in the upcoming NHL Draft.

That’s so obvious that forward Clayton Keller last week couldn’t avoid wondering aloud what the recent streak means for his boss, general manager Bill Armstrong.

“There was a joke between him and I coming off the ice … and he was laughing,” Armstrong told Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta on Tuesday. “I think what he probably meant underneath that was: ‘We’re not going according to plan right now. We’re having a little bit of fun.’

“Our team enjoys to be together. They went to the All-Star break, I think they all went together. To go through the process of a rebuild, there’s ugly times. … It’s hard to go through as a player. So I think when they’re feeling it right now, they’re truly enjoying it.”

The points streak has included three straight-up wins, one shootout victory and one overtime win. There are three overtime losses and one shootout loss within that.

It’s a step forward, a sign the roster is pooling talent and the coaching by Andre Tourigny is sticking.

But for all the good feels, Armstrong said the team is just 40% through the rebuilding phase.

“There’s some pieces there, but we got to get over the hump,” Armstrong said.

It’s far from what the GM thinks is the 60% mark, where a squad has earned the right to be in the playoff conversation.

The NHL’s March 3 trade deadline is an important point in bumping that 40% total higher.

Trading Chychrun by then would continue toward that progress, but it remains an elephant in the room and on Armstrong’s to-do list. The general manager remains firm that he wants max value in exchange for the defenseman, who hasn’t played since Feb. 10 before he was shut down for trade-related reasons.

“He ran into an issue last year where he got dinged up with some injures, it went into the summer … that kind of prolonged things,” Armstrong said. “He’s made this really easy on our side. And we’ve said to him, ‘if we can’t get what we want, then it is what it is and you’ll be a Coyote.’ He’s been great with that process.

“We’re not getting rid of somebody to get rid of somebody. We’re getting rid of somebody or moving somebody along to help the Coyotes. … We’re at that point, we’re deadlocked in negotiations and here we go.”

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