The Arizona Coyotes are really bad. Like, really, really, really bad. They have won six games and lost 25 (with three of those losses in overtime) for a total of... 15 points in 31 games (.242 points percentage). For context, that's less than half the points that the 27th-best team in the league (New Jersey) has picked up. They could theoretically win fifteen games in a row and still not even be in the playoff conversation. They're absolutely terrible.
And as hockey fans, whenever we see a terrible team, we start to wonder which of their players might be available at the trade deadline. For the Coyotes, most of the rumors have been centered around star defenseman Jakob Chychrun. Pierre Lebrun reported in an article in The Athletic (subscription required) that the Coyotes have been increasingly fielding calls on Chychrun.
First of all, how good is Chychrun? Well, it's complicated. Over the last three partial seasons, he has 74 points in 145 games, including 32 goals. This year has been a down year - only 2 goals and 7 points in 26 games so far - but he's also been very unlucky, with a 2.4% shooting percentage, which should improve (his career average is 6.7%).
This year, he also has a +/- rating of ... -29. But I'm inclined to ignore that - as the top-pairing defenseman on a truly awful team, he regularly plays against top lines next to a pretty bad defense partner and a pretty bad goalie. His defense partners this year have included Anton Stralman, Ilya Lyubushkin, and Shayne Gostisbehere, which certainly doesn't help. Also, he plays a lot, averaging 24:50 of ice time per game, the 12th-most in the entire NHL. His even-strength Corsi For % is 47.56%, which is quite good, considering 59% of his shift starts occur in the defensive zone, most of the time against the opponent's top line.
Another very encouraging aspect about Chychrun: He's only 23 years old. And after this season, he has three more years on his contract, at a very reasonable - actually, very cheap - $4.6 million average annual value. That actually means that the Islanders can afford him - they'll have nearly $14 million of cap space available next year (with a few holes to fill, certainly, but still more than enough to fit Chychrun's salary in). I'll be doing much more in-depth analyses of the Isles' cap situation as we approach the offseason.
So, all things considered, Jakob Chychrun is a pretty good player on a very bad team. It's likely that, on a good team, he would probably put up excellent numbers (he had 41 points in 56 games last year - as a defenseman - on an Arizona team that wasn't as awful as this year but was still quite bad). I think he's probably a 60-point defenseman on a good team, with a consistent defense partner, and would be very good at defense as well - certainly good enough even for a Barry Trotz team. So what would the price be?
Well, Darren Dreger reported that the current price is "Eichel-like", referring to the trade that brought Jack Eichel to Vegas in exchange for Peyton Krebs, Alex Tuch, a 1st round pick, and a 2nd round pick. For argument's sake, let's say that Krebs and Tuch are each worth roughly a 1st round pick (they were both drafted in the middle of the 1st round). I don't think Jakob Chychrun is as good as Jack Eichel at his best, of course, but he also doesn't carry the risk that Eichel did (at the time of the trade, Eichel had to receive surgery to fix a neck injury).
Arizona also has more leverage than Buffalo did - Eichel was openly, transparently frustrated with Buffalo's management and had requested a trade, while Chychrun (as far as we know) has not requested a trade, and is under contract for several more years, meaning Arizona is under no obligation to trade him if they do not receive an offer they like. So, let's say, hypothetically, in order to acquire Jakob Chychrun, a team would actually need to put together an Eichel-like trade offer. How does that look?
The Islanders do have picks - their own 1st rounder and Colorado's 2nd rounder this year, and their own 1st and 2nd rounders next year. (Actually, technically, the Isles have to send whichever of their own 2nd and Colorado's 2nd this year is better to the Coyotes as part of the Andrew Ladd trade, so let's just say they have exactly one 2nd round pick this year.)
The 1st round pick in the Eichel trade was top-10 protected, so the Isles would presumably do the same - meaning that they could trade their 2022 1st round pick, but with the condition that if that pick ends up in the top 10, they keep it and instead give their 2023 1st round pick to Arizona. Given the Isles' current struggles, top-10 protection would absolutely be a necessity for any trade involving a 1st round pick, but I don't think Arizona would have a problem with that.
So the package could include a 2022 1st round pick (top-10 protected) and a 2022 or 2023 2nd round pick. They'd then need to add two players with roughly 1st-round value, which is where this gets difficult. Here is a list of every player in the Isles' organization who is under 23 years old and was drafted in the 1st round: Oliver Wahlstrom, Noah Dobson, Simon Holmstrom. That's it. If we include 23-year-olds, Kieffer Bellows is added to the list - but I doubt Arizona would move their 23-year-old defenseman for players of the same age, particularly when it looks like they'll be pretty bad for several more years.
Of course, players drafted elsewhere in the draft can become as valuable as 1st rounders if they improve. There are only two Islanders who I'd put in that category, though: Robin Salo and Aatu Räty.
I've been quite impressed with Salo's play so far, but Chychrun (who is left-handed) is already what Salo, in our wildest dreams, might become someday (and that's unlikely). I really don't want to give up Räty, but at the same time, the Islanders don't really need another center - Mat Barzal, Brock Nelson, JG Pageau, and Casey Cizikas are all here for the foreseeable future.
Of course, they could move Räty to the wing, which would help fill some holes next season, but there are other young wingers who deserve spots (Kieffer Bellows, for example). Don't get me wrong, I hope Räty makes the team next year and I do think there's room for him, but if that's the factor that makes or breaks a Chychrun deal, I think it has to be at least considered.
I've seen a lot of discussion about a Chychrun trade involve Anthony Beauvillier. I'm just not sure whether Arizona would be interested in that - Beau is actually older than Chychrun, and moving a 23-year-old to help a rebuild, but acquiring a 24-year-old in return, seems counterproductive to me. For that reason, I'm not including Beau in this discussion at all.
So that's the trade offer. A 2022 1st round pick (top-10 protected), 2022 or 2023 2nd round pick, Robin Salo, and Aatu Räty. If I were in Lou Lamoriello's shoes, I think I would make this offer, and I think there's a reasonable chance Arizona would accept it. But I'm curious what you all think - I'll run a poll on my Twitter account, or you can leave your opinion in the comments below. Would you take this deal if you're Arizona? Would you offer it if you're the Islanders?