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Coyotes name Chayka, 26, general manager

Arizona also signs coach Dave Tippett to five-year contract

by Jerry Brown / Correspondent

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Coyotes made history Thursday, hiring 26-year-old John Chayka as the youngest general manager in major-league sports history and entrusting him with charting the direction of the rebuilding franchise.

Chayka, who will turn 27 in June, is a few months younger than Stan Kasten was when he was hired by the NBA's Atlanta Hawks to be their general manager at 27 in 1979. Kasten is now president and CEO of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Chayka replaces Don Maloney, who was fired by the Coyotes on April 11 after nine seasons. Chayka co-founded and was director of hockey operations for Stathletes Inc., a hockey analytics firm, prior to joining the Coyotes as an assistant general manager in charge of analytics one year ago.

"I think it would be kind of silly to suggest it was a goal at this age to be a general manager," said Chayka, an Ontario native who played junior hockey for three seasons until a back injury ended his career at 19 and forced him to change his goals within the sport.

"From a young age, growing up on a backyard rink and loving the sport you dream of being a player," Chayka said, "but the ability to work in the League and think strategically about hockey decisions quickly became my passion."

Video: Arizona Coyotes Announce New General Manager

Naming Chayka GM was one of several moves the Coyotes made Thursday.

Coach Dave Tippett signed a five-year contract that will begin immediately and run through the 2020-21 season, and will add the title of executive vice president of hockey operations. He will now be directly involved with all player personnel decisions; he will not have a role in amateur/draft evaluations but will concentrate on professional-level evaluations and roster fits.

Alternate governor and director Gary Drummond will serve as president of hockey operations for the Coyotes.

"John in the youngest GM in the history of pro sports and I think I'm probably the oldest guy ever to get his first hockey job," Drummond, 65, said.

Video: John Chayka talks on being new Coyotes GM

Drummond said the organization considered 10 to 12 candidates for general manager before deciding to stay in house.

Tippett said Chayka's "balance of analytics and common sense" has him excited about the future of the Coyotes.

"You meet a lot of people in the world," Tippett said, "but there are some that you walk away and it strikes you that, 'Hey, that guy is special.' And I think Gary saw that in John and over the last year, I've seen those things in John that leads you to believe he's going to be a difference-maker. And when you have a difference-maker on your team, it makes everybody better."

Coyotes president and CEO Anthony LeBlanc said the team will add an assistant general manager with NHL management experience prior to the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24.

"This is about communication, collaboration and the modernization of our entire processes," LeBlanc said. "It will very similar to what we've seen with our (NFL) neighbors, the Arizona Cardinals, where ownership, management and coaches work together on all issues."

Video: Dave Tippett on New Contract with Coyotes

The Coyotes made a 22-point improvement in the standings this season but finished nine points out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Western Conference. With a young core of talent led by forward Max Domi, defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson and forward Anthony Duclair, and more prospects expected to join the team in 2016-17, the Coyotes are optimistic while understanding there is a lot of work to be done.

"This is the best scenario we have in mind to reach our goal of winning a Stanley Cup," Chayka said. "I wouldn't take this position if I didn't think there would be the support necessary. I think we will have someone else join our team to work side-by-side with me and being some attributes that maybe address my weaknesses.

"The message to our players is that if there is something we need to do to help our organization win, we're going to do it. That's been the mandate from ownership on down to eliminate all excuses and maximize all of our players in an environment where they can grow, they can learn and get better. That's the vision."

Chayka said he first order of business is to sit down with Coyotes captain Shane Doan, who will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, and ensure he will return to the organization for a 21st season.

"He's in the process of just finishing playing and seeing where his body's at … but the sense is pretty positive overall," Chayka said. "We'd be excited to have him back and the impact he can have on our group and on the ice is exceptional. It has to be something that makes sense for him and makes sense for us, but we'd be excited to have him."

Video: Arizona Coyotes 2015-16 season recap

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