Photo: Fox News
The Arizona Coyotes announced on Sunday that GM John Chayka has quit the job. Steve Sullivan was given the interim tag to replace him. Chayka had three years remaining on his contract.
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) July 26, 2020
The Coyotes did not let him explore other job openings because Chayka had just signed a four-year contract extension in November. Chayka tried to convince owner Alex Meruelo by telling him he had been allowed to in the past to building relationships around the NHL.
Despite finishing only 11th in the Western Conference with a .529 points percentage during the regular season, the Coyotes have only $1.51 million remaining in cap space next season with 18 players on the roster. Forward Taylor Hall, who recorded 10 goals, 27 points, and a -3 rating in 35 games with the Coyotes after getting acquired from the New Jersey Devils on December 16, can become an unrestricted free agent after this season and will demand a hefty raise from his current $6 million cap hit.
The Coyotes gave up their first-round pick this season in the trade for Hall and do not have a third-round pick the next two seasons.
Chayka also gave out some expensive contracts since getting the GM job on May 5, 2016, when he became the youngest GM in NHL history at age 26.
The Coyotes ranked 23rd in the NHL with an average of 2.71 goals-per-game, tied the Columbus Blue Jackets for third with an average of 2.61 goals-against per game, 18th with a 19.2% power-play efficiency, and fifth with an 82.7% penalty-killing rate. They also were fourth with a .9293 team save percentage.
The team acquired forwards Phil Kessel and Carl Soderberg in separate trades last offseason. They dealt defensive prospect Pierre-Olivier Joseph, center Alex Galchenyuk, and a fourth-round pick to the Pittsburgh Penguins to acquire Kessel. They sent a 2020 third-round pick to the Colorado Avalanche to land Soderberg.
Sullivan has been with the Coyotes’ franchise since September of 2014 and was holding the assistant general manager position since May 2017. He has been the GM of the Tuscon Roadrunners, the team’s AHL franchise, and has been overseeing the Coyotes’ amateur player development staff.
While there is no guarantee that the Coyotes do not do an extensive search after their season ends, Friedman added that he would not be surprised if he got a long look as the full-time GM.
It should be noted that the news of Chayka’s departure and Sullivan’s promotion comes on the same day the Coyotes, along with the other 11 Western Conference teams participating, traveled to Edmonton for the Stanley Cup Qualifiers.
The team is set to begin a best-of-five qualifying round series against the Nashville Predators on Sunday, August 2 as part of the NHL’s return-to-play format.