The Arizona Coyotes and John Chayka are going through a very weird, unexpected divorce right now.
Chayka, who had been hired as the team’s general manager back in 2016, was brought on to guide the Coyotes through a much-needed rebuild. Back in November, Chayka signed a long-term extension with the organization, so it seemed as though they liked what he was doing.
Something must have changed between then and now. Last week, a report came out that the team was in talks with impending free agent Taylor Hall on a new contract to stick around in the desert. But, rather than Chayka leading the charge, such as you’d expect given his role as the general manager, it was the newly-hired CEO Xavier Gutierrez running the negotiation.
Then, on Sunday, the Coyotes dropped a bomb, saying that Chayka had “quit as the General Manager and President of Hockey Operations of the Arizona Coyotes.”
As I said yesterday in my news and notes post, it isn’t all that surprising that the Coyotes have soured oh Chayka. Though the team is technically headed to the playoffs for the first time since 2012, they would have missed out if not for the field being expanded due to COVID-19.
Beyond the team being underwhelming with a handful of ugly contracts, Chayka also got into trouble with the NHL when news broke that the Coyotes had fitness tested draft-eligible players from the CHL. If the NHL determines that the Coyotes are guilty of this violation, it could cost them $250,000 in fines.
Anyways, no matter what happened, Chayka is out and the Coyotes are without a General Manager and a President of Hockey Operations. As of right now, assistant GM Steve Sullivan has assumed an interim tag in Chayka’s place.
Steve Sullivan will be GM of ARIZ. Likely on an interim basis, but I could see the Coyotes giving him a long look.
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) July 26, 2020
Even if the Coyotes decide to keep Sullivan in the general manager role, they’ll need to flesh out the rest of the front office around him with more experience. Sullivan was hired as a development coach by the Coyotes in 2014 and moved into the assistant general manager role in 2017, so he’s incredibly green to be running an NHL ship.
One of the names being mentioned to come in and add some stability to Arizona’s front office is Peter Chiarelli.
Back in May, there was some talk that Gary Bettman wanted Chiarelli in Arizona to help solidify the perenially-dysfunctional project in the desert. Then, on Sunday, Scott Burnside of The Athletic mentioned Chiarelli’s name as somebody that the league would favour helping out in Arizona.
Several sources indicated former Boston and Edmonton GM Peter Chiarelli is someone league officials would like to help find his way back to the NHL after a disastrous turn in Edmonton and think that Arizona would be a good landing place.
Chiarelli was an Assistant General Manager in Ottawa for a couple of years before moving to Boston, where he, as General Manager, helped the Bruins win the 2011 Stanley Cup. He then, of course, came to Edmonton as the General Manager and President of Hockey Operations. Since being fired by the Oilers, Chiarelli has been doing work for Doug Armstrong in St. Louis, but he’s made it clear he’d like another chance at running an NHL team.
To me, nothing would be funnier than Chiarelli getting brought on board in Arizona, in which his first major decision involves figuring out what to do with none other than an impending free agent named Taylor Hall.