It took 18 months, but Jacob Cicciron was finally traded – and arguably a team that needed him more than any other team in the NHL.
It’s another big domino to fall in what’s been a wild fortnight as the Defensemen’s commercial market plays itself out.
Let’s walk through it all again.
The Bruins are believed to have shown interest in Chychrun about three or four weeks ago, but when there seemed no way to a deal given the price, the B’s turned to Vladislav Gavrikov in Columbus. The Blue Jackets thought they made a deal with the Bruins about two weeks ago, but the Bruins told the Jackets they needed more time, presumably to get rid of cap space.
Athletic has live coverage of the NHL trade deadline with all the latest news, deals and analysis.
Meanwhile, Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan sent a memo to his colleagues around February 19th, saying he was willing to listen to free agent Dmitry Orlov, and that apparently changed everything. The B’s pivoted to what they felt was a better option and secured a deal on February 23rd. Great pickup for boston.
This left Columbus furious. And scrambling. There are only so many first round picks available.
Last Friday, the Jackets began restarting business talks with former suitors over Gavrikov, reaching out to the likes of Edmonton, Los Angeles and Toronto.
Meanwhile, the Maple Leafs had already been engaged at the time with Chicago for defenseman Jake McCabe, though that deal didn’t happen until this past Monday.
The Oilers showed some interest in Gavrikov, but it was clear to Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen that Edmonton viewed Gavrikov as a Plan B or Plan C.
That’s because the Oilers have been engaged in on-and-off again talks with Arizona at Chychrun for two weeks through Tuesday. Conversations really heated up between the Oilers and Coyotes on Sunday and Monday, and at one point, both sides felt like they were a little too close to something. But that deal fell apart, in large part because the Coyotes simply didn’t want the money back in the form of a player contract. Even after Jesse Puljujarvi was transferred to Carolina on Tuesday morning, the Oilers couldn’t seal Chychrun’s deal without at least one player being recontracted.
My sense is that Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong was willing to continue working with the Oilers, but Edmonton GM Ken Holland decided he couldn’t risk waiting until so close to Friday’s deadline and missing out on the other defenseman he was in talks with.
That would be Matthias Ekholm. Holland phoned Predator GM David Boyle on February 23 to get the ball rolling on that ball. In that conversation, Boyle told Holland that Ekholm’s price should include at least a first-round pick this year (with Nashville hosting a renewal, that was important), as well as prospect Reid Schaefer, who was drafted at No. 32 last summer. The Oilers weren’t fond of Schaefer having a piece of things, but they kept the conversation going with the Predators while having parallel conversations with Arizona in Cicero over the past week.
Once Holland reported to Armstrong on Tuesday that, once and for all, he was in Cicciron, he had finalized the deal on Ekholm with Poile. Having to include Tyson Barry in that trade for cap reasons wasn’t an easy decision either. Barry was a key member of the Oilers’ power play and a popular teammate. But the overall price tag has been worth it for the Netherlands, to get a veteran outfielder into the top four like Ekholm, who the Oilers hope will help stabilize the five-v-five game defensively.
Tuesday was also the last time wolves and kings spoke in Chychrun. I’d like to know how many times over the past 12 months these two front offices have sparred over the defender, who always seemed headed for LA, with the Kings’ stark need on the left side. But this never happened. There have certainly been many discussions with Arizona about Chychrun, but it never felt like they were close to a trade, a Kings source told me Wednesday night.
Of course, the reason Tuesday was the Kings’ last conversation with Arizona in Cicciron was because Los Angeles was looking to cement its deal with Columbus for Gavrikov (and goaltender Jonas Korbesalo) late Tuesday night.
The two clubs had been talking on and off for a long time, but things got more serious on Monday and Tuesday when the idea of both a defender and goalkeeper in the deal was introduced. Kikalainen did so well, in the end, earning a first-round selection, albeit conditional, given the circumstances surrounding his failed deal with Boston. You defended well.
And there you have it. The Kings, Oilers and Bruins–all potential Chichiron destinations–have passed one by one as options for Arizona as they fill their defensive needs.
In this case, it is not surprising that over the past 24 to 48 hours things have been heating up between Arizona and Ottawa.
There have been other teams that have been talking to Arizona over the past week, too, including Washington, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and Columbus.
But the big appeal in the end for Arizona in gaining traction with the Senators was twofold. First, Ottawa did not need to return the money in the player’s contract. That was huge for Arizona. And secondly, the Coyotes felt that Ottawa’s first-round draft pick, while a top-five protected, was more attractive than any other selection on offer. This pick could finish anywhere from 6th to 16th – unless, of course, Ottawa makes the playoffs, which is possible.
As others have reported, the Coyotes had a potential trade to Columbus involving Chychrun falling apart in the draft in Montreal last summer, which included the Jackets’ No. 12 first-round pick. So in the end, the Coyotes will likely end up with a similar first-round pick from Ottawa. But they did not finish with two first-round picks, which had been part of the Coyotes’ application in the Chychrun trade for over a year.
From the Senators’ perspective, Price certainly softened from previous talks with Arizona, as prospect names like Ridley Gregg and Tyler Clevin were part of the Coyotes’ application, as well as the rest of the draft pick package. The senators deemed it too expensive, which is why the organization thought it was out of the Chychrun sweepstakes late last week. Abroad, well, until the price fell.
Obviously she did. Sens GM Pierre Dorion showed good patience, and ended up filling a glaring hole on his blue line at a price he could live with. And while it’s a boost in the short term for a team that’s been playing great hockey, the real impact of the deal on the Senators will be felt over the next few years.
What a wild two weeks in the defense trade market, and that wasn’t even going into the surprise trade of Phillip Hronik to Vancouver from Detroit on Wednesday, or Shane Gostisbehery to the Carolinas; or Luke Shane, Jake McCabe, and Eric Gustafson go to Toronto; Or the return of Jack Johnson to Colorado.
We may not have finished.
But imagine for a moment how different the past two weeks could have been.
Gavrikov was close to Bruin. And where would that have left Orlov? And Chychrun could easily have ended up in Edmonton or Los Angeles. What does this mean for Gavrikov and Ekholm?
Lots of business conversations nested around a small group of scammers. Let’s see how match time can come.
(Top photo by Jakob Chychrun: Zac BonDurant/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
“Coffee ninja. Web fan. Hipster-friendly beer enthusiast. Professional creator.”