By Andrew Bell
After multiple reports over the last few days, John Chayka has officially terminated his contract as General Manager of the Arizona Coyotes.
The news was first reported by Pierre LeBrun of the Athletic, and he stated that the termination happened 48 hours prior. This is from a blunt official statement put out by the Coyotes:
“John Chayka has quit as the General Manager and President of Hockey Operations of the Arizona Coyotes. 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.
“The club is moving forward and has named Steve Sullivan as Interim General Manager. He has the full support of the entire organization including team ownership, executive leadership, players, and coaches. The club will have no further comment on the matter, as the Club remains focused on the opportunity to pursue a Stanley Cup.”
Prior to Chayka’s departure, Sullivan was overseeing the Coyotes American Hockey League affiliate, the Tucson Roadrunners, and now he’ll be thrust into a precarious situation.
The Chayka exit also comes after reports from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman that the Coyotes gave Chayka permission to explore another opportunity over the last few months. However, after it became more clear that Chayka was considering leaving, there was more push back from the organization.
Chayka agreed to a long-term contract extension in November with Arizona, and he’s been with the Coyotes since the summer of 2016, when he became the youngest GM in North American sports history.
The franchise was taken over by majority owner Alex Meruelo last June, and Xavier A. Gutierrez was named President of the Coyotes last month, taking over in place of former CEO Ahron Cohen.
In an article put out by Craig Morgan of AZ Coyotes Insider, there were contradictory reports of how the situation got to this point, detailing conflict between Meruelo and Chayka about the GM being pursued for another “professional opportunity” that was not with another franchise. However, another report claimed that an NHL owner requested to speak to Chayka and was denied.
In the story, Chayka released the following statement:
“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.”
All of this couldn’t come at a worse time for the Coyotes, as they are just over one week away from competing in a play-in series against the Nashville Predators to compete for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and while trying to resign star forward Taylor Hall.
The roster that is built right now all stems from Chayka’s moves as GM, and what the future holds is certainly in the air at the moment.