The Arizona Coyotes are set to have defenseman Jakob Chychrun return from injury next week, and the team needs him to be at his very best when he returns.
Chychrun has not played for the Coyotes since March 12th, having to have surgery to remove a bone spur from his ankle and then recover from a separate wrist injury. Still, the team reportedly has November 21st penciled in as the earliest he could return to the line-up.
Having a player of Chychrun’s quality will undoubtedly help the current Coyotes team, who have started a surprising 6-8-1 this year - far away from the bottoming-out performances that everyone expected considering the prize at the end of it could be the franchise-altering Conor Bedard.
But while the Coyotes will be hoping to get the very best version of Chychrun for his ability to help the team now, it is, in reality, more of a hope that he can elevate his trade value around the league with his return.
Chychrun and the Coyotes are headed for a separation, this is no secret. But the team will only let their top defenseman leave if they receive what they deem to be the best value for him - something that could see the situation drag out far longer than the player may hope.
At present, the Coyotes are unlikely to get that value for him due mainly to the concerns around his injury history, his long absence, and his drop in production last season. Chychrun has never played more than 68 games in a season, something that will concern many teams that would be hoping to have him around as much as possible, although he did play all 56 games of the Covid-shortened 2021 season.
In 2021-22, however, with the Coyotes entering the first year of their genuine tear-it-all-down rebuild, Chychrun’s numbers naturally took a hit. In 47 games before his injury, Chychrun had just 21 points (7G-14A) after putting up 41 (18G-23A) the season before, where he was also top ten in Norris Trophy voting.
Teams around the NHL will want Chychrun to be, at the very least, a top-four performer, and that means he needs to hit to ground running when he returns to truly demonstrate that he is the player he should be.
He plays big minutes, reaching at least 23 on average over the past two seasons, and would be a valuable player to any team who trades for him. However, given his injuries, teams are cautious about overpaying for a player who could miss at least a quarter of a season every year, a mark he is approaching already in 2022-23.
Had the Coyotes attempted to move Chychrun last summer, they undoubtedly would have received what they were looking for in terms of return, but now it’s down to the player’s ability to get back to where he was at that time.
If that’s not possible, the Coyotes will need to lower their asking price to at least receive some valuable assets to contribute towards the rebuild or lay out the fact that the 24-year-old is signed for two more seasons after this at an exceptionally friendly $4.6 million AAV, and he will have to honor his contract until a time where teams at least enter the ballpark of what the Coyotes want.
Some contending teams may get desperate around the trade deadline, but for now, the Coyotes need to be patient and hope Chychrun can improve on last year and get them what they believe he is worth.
Though, they won’t want his performances to be too good and prevent them from being able to land a top-three pick in the 2023 Draft.