Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun was all the rage on Twitter this past weekend. According to amateur sleuths, he had scrubbed all reference of his current team from his social media accounts during the All-Star break. He had recently followed a bunch of Toronto Maple Leafs players. He had recently followed a bunch of Boston Bruins. He had recently followed a bunch of Edmonton Oilers. Who knows, maybe he even followed a bunch of KHL players.
When I sheepishly began to ask Chychrun about the online fuss after a 3-2 win against the Minnesota Wild at Mullett Arena on Monday, he smiled.
“I already know what you’re going to ask me,” he said.
Chychrun didn’t scrub the Coyotes from his social media accounts during the All-Star break. He did that at the end of last season when he and everyone else thought he was going to be traded at the draft.
“It’s just that nobody noticed,” he said, laughing.
By the way, there are still very prevalent photos of Chychrun in a Coyotes uniform on his social media accounts. As for those players he supposedly just followed? He said he has followed them for a long time. That’s no surprise. The NHL brotherhood is a web of relationships.
None of this information will stop the tinfoil hat crowd from throwing out wild theories about a deal already being done, or suggesting that Chychrun is hinting at an imminent trade.
To be crystal clear, he was not and no deal is imminent. The wild and off-base speculation was just an indicator that the March 3 trade deadline is approaching. The chatter is ramping up. Some of what you read is grounded in reality, but that’s coming from actual reporters with actual sources. The rest of it? It’s either fan fiction, clickbait from fringe media members who do not adhere to journalism standards, or pure fantasy.
There are entire stories devoted solely to where players are most likely to end up (as if anybody knows), but we’re making no predictions here at PHNX. The market is too volatile; too prone to daily changes. GMs are ready to pull the trigger on a trade when their teams lose three straight. Then they block all callers when their team wins three straight.
Instead of joining the guessing game, we have identified eight players who could be trade chips for general manager Bill Armstrong to further stock his cupboards with draft and prospects assets, while stocking other teams’ cupboards with players who could be of service in the hunt for the Stanley Cup.
It would be a shock if all eight of these players were dealt, but it would not surprise us if a handful moved on.
C Nick Bjugstad
Season stats: 51 games, 11 goals, 21 points, 16:46 average time on ice per game (ATOI)
Season review: The Coyotes signed Bjugstad this summer to provide veteran leadership, defensive prowess and secondary scoring. He has delivered all of that and more. He is immensely popular in the room, he has been a good matchup center against other teams’ top talent, he is finally healthy and he is on pace for offensive numbers not seen since the 2017-18 season.
Value to other teams: Any team looking for a third-line center who can give you size, strength and smarts in matchups against elite talent should come calling. His faceoff percentage has not been great this season, but that is probably because he has been forced to take too many (team-high 769) in too many situations because the Coyotes are not blessed with strong faceoff men.
Contract situation: Bjugstad will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) after this season. Any team acquiring him would pick up the prorated portion of his $900,000 salary unless the Coyotes retained a portion.
Market value: Likely a second-round or third-round pick for Bjugstad.
Trade likelihood: There appears to be a lot of interest — too many teams to mention including the Oilers — in Bjugstad because of his personality, his size, his role and his easy-to-absorb salary. Of all the Coyotes on this list, he may be the most likely to go.
F Christian Fischer
Season stats: 51 games, 8 goals, 18 points, 15:01 ATOI
Season review: With one more point, Fischer will have eclipsed every season’s total but his rookie year despite ranking seventh among forwards in average ice time and getting virtually no opportunity on the power play. Fischer remains a positive force in the room, with media and in the community; a big reason that he is wearing an A as an alternate captain.
Value to other teams: Fischer will be viewed as an energy guy who can kill penalties, play good defensive hockey and lighten up a room, but he can also provide secondary scoring in the right role.
Contract situation: Fischer will be a restricted free agent (RFA) with arbitration rights after this season. Any team acquiring him would pick up the prorated portion of his $1,125,875 salary unless the Coyotes retained a portion.
Market value: Unknown.
Trade likelihood: Unlikely. The Coyotes consider Fischer a part of their core and are not looking to trade him. They love his energy, his approach to the game and his all-in attitude about being a Coyote. He has also made strides in his game this season. The only way they would trade him is if they got an offer they could not refuse.
F Nick Ritchie
Season stats: 48 games, 9 goals, 21 points, 13:51 ATOI
Season review: Ritchie started out hot with six goals in his first 11 games. Since then, he has cooled considerably. Coach André Tourigny even scratched him from the lineup at one point this season when he wasn’t seeing enough physical engagement and work in the hard areas along the wall and in front of the net. Ritchie has largely gotten back to that game but the production has not followed.
Value to other teams: Ritchie would likely be a bottom-six forward who provides a physical presence, a net-front presence and the ability to score greasy goals at 5-on-5 and on the power play. He could be more effective in the direct, gritty approach that the playoffs always bring.
Contract situation: Ritchie will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) after this season. Any team acquiring him would pick up the prorated portion of his $3,300,000 ($2.5 million cap hit) salary unless the Coyotes retained a portion.
Market value: The Coyotes would hope for a second-round pick but they may have to settle for less. Remember, the Coyotes already acquired a 2025 second-round draft when they acquired Ritchie from Toronto for Ilya Lyubushkin and Ryan Dzingel.
Trade likelihood: The market has cooled for Ritchie but that could change near the deadline when teams are looking for his specific skill set which, again, suits the style of play in the playoffs.
D Jakob Chychrun
Season stats: 35 games, 7 goals, 27 points, 23:05 ATOI (team high)
Season review: Chychrun missed the first 16 games of the season but since returning he has looked like the Chychrun of the 2020-21 season. For much of the season, he was paired with Shayne Gostisbehere (now injured) and he was on the ice in offensive situations with offensive players such as Clayton Keller and Nick Schmaltz. He has also improved his defensive play as PHNX Sports’ Steve Peters analyzed in that linked story above.
Value to other teams: There is a lot of value in a 24-year-old, strong-skating, hard-shooting, goal-scoring and defensively improved, top-four defenseman who is under contract for two more seasons at a reasonable price.
Contract situation: Chychrun has two more seasons left on his contract after this one at a cap hit of $4.6 million. His salary this season is $4 million but that would be prorated. He will be paid $5.4 next season and $7 million the season after that.
Market value: The Coyotes continue to hold firm on their ask for a pair of first-round picks and a second-round pick (or the equivalent of that in a prospect). When you look at other recent deals (Chicago got two first-round picks and two prospects from Tampa for Brandon Hagel last spring), the ask is not off base despite the protests of some GMs who are negotiating through the media.
Trade likelihood: A trade of this magnitude is hard to pull off at the deadline. It still feels like more of a draft-day deal (like the one the Coyotes thought they had consummated with Columbus at the 2022 draft). Then again, nothing sparks action like a deadline and the urgency that GMs feel about improving their teams for a run at the Cup. Insiders Pierre LeBrun and Jeff Marek continue to report that the Kings are interested in Chychrun. Dave Pagnotta also ties Florida, Boston, Anaheim and Edmonton to Chychrun, although the Panthers probably do not have the assets to offer and the Ducks’ situation is murky, given their unexpected struggles this season. Given Chychrun’s salary and the cap crunch that many playoff contenders are feeling, the Coyotes would likely have to take salary back in return on any deal. That might be necessary anyway for the Coyotes to remain cap compliant.
D Shayne Gostisbehere
Season stats: 48 games, 9 goals, 29 points, 22:38 ATOI
Season review: Gostisbehere picked up right where he left off last season with strong offensive production and good work on the power play (10 points). Unfortunately, he was sidelined with an upper-body injury on Jan. 24 that was slated to keep him out of the lineup for four to six weeks (he should return right around the trade deadline). That will likely keep him from eclipsing last season’s point total.
Value to other teams: He can quarterback a power play, he can ignite offense with a good first pass or an individual breakout and he has an underrated shot. He is still prone to a glaring defensive mistake (turnovers or reads) but he brings a lot of value on the other end and has worked hard to shore up the defensive side of his game.
Contract situation: Gostisbehere will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) after this season. Any team acquiring him would pick up the prorated portion of his $4.5 million cap hit unless the Coyotes retained a portion, but he is only owed the prorated $1 million portion of his $3.25 million salary after earning his $2.25 million signing bonus earlier this season.
Market value: A second- or third-round pick.
Trade likelihood: Given Gostisbehere’s easy-to absorb remaining salary, this should be an easy to deal to make and he has strong value as a specialist who could really help a contender that needs a power play boost. Could Edmonton, Tampa, Calgary, Pittsburgh or the New York Islanders be a fit?
D Josh Brown
Season stats: 47 games, 3 goals, 5 points, 15:21 ATOI
Season review: When the season began, the expectation for Brown was as a seventh defenseman who would sit on many nights as a healthy scratch. Instead, he has played 46 games and is averaging third-pair minutes. Brown’s size (6-5, 220) gives him reach and the ability to play a physical game. He’s also a heady, approachable and insightful analyst in interviews, which is probably one reason why the organization and his teammates like him.
Value to other teams: Every team is looking for veteran defensive depth in the postseason because every team will lose defensemen to injuries in the playoffs. Toss in Brown’s size and physical play and there is value here, but Brown’s underlying, Coyotes-impacted numbers may scare teams off.
Contract situation: Brown is signed for one more season after this one at a cap hit of $1.275 million (his salary next season is $1.3 million).
Market value: A late-round draft pick.
Trade likelihood: Unlikely. Given the likely return, Brown has more value to the Coyotes because of what he has brought, including the protection of offensively skilled players such as Dylan Guenther, Clayton Keller or Nick Schmaltz. The only way the Coyotes would trade him is if a team surprised them with an offer of a higher draft pick.
D Troy Stecher
Season stats: 51 games, 0 goals, four points, 16:12 ATOI.
Season review: Until recently, Stecher has been a quiet, head-down kind of leader in the room. The Trevor Zegras incident highlighted how much his teammates respect him.
Value to other teams: Every team is looking for veteran defensive depth in the postseason because every team will lose defensemen to injuries in the playoffs. Stecher can make a good first pass, carry the puck and he has been relied on in more a defensive role this season (70.7 percent of his zone starts have come in the D-zone).
Contract situation: Stecher will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) after this season. Any team acquiring him would pick up the prorated portion of his $1.25 million salary, unless the Coyotes retained a portion.
Market value: A late-round draft pick.
Trade likelihood: Unlikely. At this point, there hasn’t been significant interest in acquiring Stecher.
G Karel Vejmelka
Season stats: 36 games (35 starts), 3.16 GAA, .908 SP, 16.8 goals saved above expected (sixth in the NHL)
Season review: For most of the season, Vejmelka was the Coyotes’ MVP, helping them to earn standings points that Armstrong didn’t necessarily want. Due to his workload and the Coyotes’ ridiculous schedule, his play slipped a bit in early January, but he regained it before the All-Star break and was spectacular in a 3-2 win against Minnesota on Monday.
Value to other teams: Cup contenders that don’t have their goaltending shored up are not really Cup contenders.
Contract situation: Vejmelka is signed for two more seasons beyond this one at a cap hit of $2.725 million. He’ll make $3.15 million and $2.775 million the next two seasons.
Market value: Very difficult to read. I don’t think the Coyotes would take a second-round pick for Vejmelka. A team would really have to make a significant offer. The problem is that Vejmelka has no playoff résumé to indicate to GMs how he might fare in the postseason.
Trade likelihood: This all depends on how honest teams are being about their goaltending situation. Does Vegas really believe that Logan Thompson (minus 2.6 goals saved above expected) can lead them to the Cup? Does Toronto really believe that injury-prone Matt Murray or Ilya Samsonov can? Does Edmonton have the right guys to end Connor McDavid’s growing frustration? Does L.A. have the right blend? We’ll see.
Top photo of Coyotes center Nick Bjugstad in the faceoff circle via Getty Images
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