Reaffirming the confidence and optimism that has encompassed his tenure through continued growth and improvement of the Coyotes' team on the ice, President of Hockey Operations and General Manager John Chayka was signed to a long-term contract extension today, as announced by Majority Owner, Chairman, and Governor Alex Meruelo.
"John is one of the brightest and hardest-working general managers in the entire NHL and over the past four seasons, he has done an excellent job of rebuilding our franchise and transforming the Coyotes into a contender," Meruelo said. "I am fully confident that John is the right person to lead us moving forward and help us bring the Stanley Cup to Arizona."
More recognition was provided by President and CEO Ahron Cohen, who has witnessed Chayka's path to building since day one.
"As we continue in our mission to make the Coyotes one of the premier franchises in the National Hockey League and in all of professional sports, John's visionary leadership in building our team is a foundational bedrock of this pursuit," said Cohen. "John's intellect, grit, entrepreneurial spirit and creativity are world class, and I know we have the right person at the helm to bring great days ahead here in Arizona for our Coyotes family."
Since taking over in May of 2016 when he became the youngest GM in North American major sports history, the recently turned 30-year-old Chayka has made a number of major moves to restructure the Coyotes' roster, including a number of contract extensions, notable trades and free agent acquisitions.
"I'm very pleased and grateful that we've undertaken a big project here and there's still some work to do," Chayka said on a conference call shortly after the announcement. "To have the opportunity to see things through while getting the recognition for our entire staff that we're on the right track and doing good things, we're expecting to do even more."
"I'm excited to keep working away here."
Through trades, Chayka acquired the likes of Phil Kessel , Nick Schmaltz , Derek Stepan , Carl Soderberg , Lawson Crouse , Vinnie Hinostroza , Niklas Hjalmarsson , Jason Demers , Jordan Oesterle and goaltenders Antti Raanta and Darcy Kuemper .
By way of free agency, he signed Alex Goligoski and Michael Grabner .
And of course, he drafted forwards Clayton Keller and Barrett Hayton , as well as defensemen Jakob Chychrun and Victor Soderstrom.
"I think the key thing is that we're on the right track, we've had a solid process and that's always the main thing," he said. "You're never satisfied until you reach your goals, and we want to win a championship here but it starts with making the playoffs and getting our foot in the door."
It takes a great staff, which he oversees as President of Hockey Operations.
Since his 2016 hiring, Chayka revamped the Coyotes' hockey operations department by adding Steve Sullivan and Lindsay Hofford as assistant general managers, Scott Walker and Jake Goldberg as assistants to the GM, Brad Rossen as director of statistical analysis, Rick Tocchet as head coach, John MacLean and Phil Housley as assistant coaches and Corey Schwab as goaltending coach. He also hired numerous new pro and amateur scouts and bolstered the Coyotes player development program by hiring Mark Bell.
"Hiring people of high integrity that come in, are hard-working, and have low egos. When we're hiring people, that's what we're looking for," he said. "I think the staff that we've hired have embodied those values, and in turn they go out and find players that are similar in those values."
Chayka has found great synergy in working with Alex Meruelo, who was introduced as the Coyotes' new majority owner in August. He used the word "alignment" when describing his relationship with Meruelo, and the two have had high praise for each other from the start.
"We can rely on one another and push one another in a positive way," Chayka said of Meruelo. "A lot of managers can go through a few organizations before they find that fit where it's a real good situation for everybody, and certainly that's been the case for myself with Alex in a short period of time. We have a similar vision for things, a similar approach to business, and that's been the connection."
A connection the Coyotes are confident will eventually lead them toward the ultimate goal: a championship.
Lead Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett - Getty Images // Body Photo(s) Credit: Norm Hall - Getty Images