John Chayka is out as the Arizona Coyotes’ general manager, The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun first reported on Sunday, saying that the Chayka terminated his contract with the team more than 48 hours prior to Sunday morning. The news comes following reports that the relationship between Chayka and the league soured because of another job opportunity.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said assistant GM Steve Sullivan, who was also serving as the GM of the AHL Tucson Roadrunners, will take over as GM on at least an interim basis.
The team declined to comment when reached by Arizona Sports.
According to Friedman, the Coyotes were approached during the pandemic about a job opportunity elsewhere for Chayka, and the team gave him permission to explore it. When it became apparent that he might leave the organization, the Coyotes pushed back against the idea of him exiting.
Per Friedman, a source said: “It was not a lateral move. He was not going to be the GM of another NHL team.”
Craig Morgan said the opportunity was outside of hockey entirely.
“The two sides discussed the possibility of a ‘transition period’ where the GM would stay through the remainder of Arizona’s season,” Friedman wrote, “but talks fell apart.”
The news comes following days of speculation around the job security of Chayka, who was reportedly not present at a meeting that involved owner Alex Meruelo, Meruelo’s son Alex Jr., CEO Xavier Gutierrez and free agent-to-be Taylor Hall. Conflicting reports made murky the nature of Chayka’s omission from the meeting.
Chayka was the Coyotes’ general manager since May of 2016, when he became the youngest general manager in North American professional sports history at the age of 26.
Chayka’s departure is surprising when viewed through the context that he received a long-term contract extension less than a year ago, in November of 2019. Morgan reported that contract extension ran through 2023-24.
Meruelo took over as owner last summer, and this year, the organization replaced CEO Ahron Cohen with Gutierrez, a move that could be explained by the theory that the new owner simply wanted to bring his own executive to run business operations.
The general manager signed Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Jakob Chychrun, Clayton Keller, Nick Schmaltz, Christian Dvorak and Darcy Kuemper to contract extensions — to name a few. He also executed many trades throughout his tenure with the organization, most notably for Phil Kessel and Taylor Hall, the former of whom didn’t perform to expectation by most accounts and the latter is a pending free agent.
It’s up for debate whether Chayka got to see the true outcome of his work, but the current roster is largely his own doing. The team has been one of the best defensive teams in the NHL and the worst offensive teams in the NHL the last three seasons. Any conclusions to be drawn from that information are up to the beholder.