In a move that raised a few eyebrows around the NHL, John Chayka his contract with the Arizona Coyotes and is no longer their general manager/president of hockey operations. This news breaks as the Coyotes prepare for their first taste of playoff hockey since 2012. It made no real sense, and the confusion only grew after the team released a statement addressing Chayka’s departure as well as naming Steve Sullivan as interm general manager.
“John Chayka has quit as the General Manager and President of Hockey Operations of the Arizona Coyotes,” the team said about Chayka. “The Club is disappointed in his actions and his timing as the Coyotes prepare to enter the NHL’s hub city of Edmonton, where the team will begin post-season play for the first time since 2012. Chayka has chosen to quit on a strong and competitive team, a dedicated staff, and the Arizona Coyotes fans, the greatest fans in the NHL.”
Chayka himself released a statement to a couple Coyotes-centric publications as it pertains to his departure from the team.
”The past four years have been the most enjoyable of my life. In Arizona, I became a husband and a father, while working as hard as possible to make the Coyotes a Stanley Cup contender. I love our players, coaches, staff and fans and I very much wish I could be with the team in Edmonton. Sadly, the situation created by ownership made that an impossibility.
“That’s all I intend to say on this matter for now. A fuller, more detailed explanation may be necessary in the near future. Until then, I wish the Coyotes good luck in Edmonton, and thank every member of Our Pack for the support shown to Kathryn, our daughter and myself over the years. Also, I want to congratulate Steve Sullivan as he steps into a new role. We’ve worked side-by-side for years. He is a great person and a terrific hockey mind.”
So, what happened here? What led Chayka to leave his position at this time when Arizona was about to play in the playoffs for the first time in a while? Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman pieced this together as best he could, as conflicting information has been given by a number of different sources who have taken their sides and drawn their own proverbial line in the sand. From what Friedman could gather, this is what caused the rift between owner Alex Meruelo and his now former GM:
Meruelo was approached by another team, potentially either the Buffalo Sabres or New Jersey Devils, about speaking to Chayka about a job opportunity. Although the request was originally denied, the conversation between this team and Chayka was allowed to proceed. Friedman states that an “offer he couldn’t refuse” was made to Chayka and that this move wouldn’t be lateral. It is believed that this offer involved participation in an ownership group with teams in other leagues, which gave Chayka involvement with those teams.
Some sources claim that the Yotes were “stunned and enormously disappointed” by this. The team will reportedly argue that it is written into Chayka’s contract that the titles “general manager” and “president of hockey operations” could not be involved in this potential move to prove it wasn’t lateral. Accusations of demands for compensation were also levied about, which the NHL does not allow. The relationship between GM and owner rapidly deteriorated to the point that Chayka was not present at a meeting between ownership and free agent to be Taylor Hall.
Chayka has also not been in communication with agents as of late. Sullivan represented the team on two calls this week. Despite this, Meruelo wanted Chayka to join the team in Edmonton as recently as Thursday. The now former GM wanted to join the team, but before committing to doing so, he wanted a “transition plan” in place that outlined how things would unfold as it regarded Chayka’s future. With ownership focusing their efforts on the playoffs, no plan was agreed upon, and Chayka terminated his contract.
According to Friedman’s sources, this will come down to what’s on paper. They will ask NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to adjudicate this mess between Meruelo and Chayka. The Coyotes absolutely furious at this point in time and want to make sure their rights are protected. Bettman’s involvement could end up determining Chayka’s future with the Coyotes. This type of situation is a bit unheard of. Coaches have been fired before the playoffs before. Former Devils GM Lou Lamoriello fired his head coach before the playoffs on two separate occasions. On one of those occasions, they won the Stanley Cup.
The only thing that can be for certain is that this is a mess of a situation. There will be a lot to sift through in the coming months, and only time will tell how everything will unfold.
Photo Credit: David Wallace/azcentral Sports