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Are the Sabres eyeing John Chayka?

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Coyotes GM rumored to be Buffalo GM Target

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

After a first season that drew mixed reviews, Arizona Coyotes general manager John Chayka could find himself at the helm of a different NHL team next year.

According to Sportsnet insider Elliotte Friedman, “ESPN.com’s Craig Custance reported Buffalo may have interest in Arizona’s John Chayka. That one took me by surprise, but Custance doesn’t just throw garbage at the wall and I think he’s on to something. That says he’s a legit contender, if the Coyotes allow permission.”

Buffalo fired their general manager Tim Murray last Thursday, and have been linked with the likes of Rick Dudley, Chris Drury, Jason Botterill, and Norm Maciver among others to fill the freshly opened position.

However, SportsNet reporter John Shannon reported the Sabres could be looking for “new blood” to take over the organization.

While Chayka wouldn’t technically be “new blood,” it’s hard to find another candidate as young or innovative. Chayka, just 27, caught the hockey world off-guard when he was hired by Arizona a year ago and could fit perfectly with the Sabres desire for a modern-thinking GM.

Any discussion of a move, however, would need the Coyotes approval, as Chayka remains under contract with Arizona, bringing us to the question: how badly do the Coyotes want to keep Chayka?

While Chayka’s free agent signings didn’t land in 2016-17, his decisions on draft day exceeded the expectations of many. Despite their disappointing finish in the standings, the Coyotes also saw the development of young players like Christian Dvorak, Jakob Chychrun, and Lawson Crouse, as well as the promising debut of Clayton Keller.

However, front office friction has been evident as well, especially surrounding the Shane Doan contract situation. Add in the potential transferring of power among the ownership group, and it isn’t hard to see Chayka’s early accomplishments being discarded, and his services being sent to western New York.

The real variable here is what sort of compensation the Coyotes could get from Buffalo. As a trading chip, Chayka’s value probably isn’t all that high; he is still too young for most teams to consider hiring and has yet to make that splash move to insert himself as one of the top NHL general managers.

Basically, this doesn’t seem like a backdoor shortcut route for the Coyotes to end up with Jack Eichel. Or Evander Kane. Or Ryan O’Reilly.

While there might be other assets the Coyotes could potentially acquire with for cutting ties with their young GM, it would be a tall task to justify the costs of doing so. Like him or hate him, Chayka is the type of GM a low-spending, resource-scarce franchise like the Coyotes need.

He has his flaws and still has plenty to prove, but Chayka has still shown enough potential to earn at least another season directing this prospect-packed organization.

The Coyotes have lacked stability and intuition for too many years, and letting their young GM go to another city would do little to fix their deep-rooted problems.