According to multiple sources, Arizona Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo will ask NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to adjudicate the ugly divorce between the organisation and John Chayka, thereby determining the executive’s future.
“This is a contractual dispute,” one source said Sunday afternoon.
After several days of silence, the Coyotes came out firing at their former president of hockey operations and general manager.
“John Chayka has quit as the general manager and president of hockey operations,” a statement released by the team read. “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.”
Steve Sullivan is in the pilot’s seat — at least through the remainder of the Coyotes’ season.
Chayka released a statement to azcoyotesinsider.com and The Arizona Republic saying: “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.”
Here’s what I can best piece together:
Approximately one month ago, Meruelo received a request from another NHL owner to speak to Chayka. Initially, the request was denied. (There’s been a lot of speculation about the Buffalo Sabres, but I’m also hearing rumblings about New Jersey, although the Devils have hired Tom Fitzgerald. Word is Chayka will take time away before making any further comment or commitment.) Understand that Meruelo — up until this saga unfolded — was an enormous Chayka fan. He believed in the GM’s vision, extending him through the 2023-24 season, making the Coyotes a cap team.
Eventually, Meruelo relented and allowed the conversation. This will be a critical part of the process. He will argue that he was lied to about what was to be discussed and that Chayka said he had no intention of leaving. What, if anything, is in writing?