John Chayka has resigned as general manager of the Arizona Coyotes, the team announced on Sunday. Chayka had reportedly informed the Coyotes on Friday that he was terminating his contract. Now, the move is official.

Coyotes assistant general manager Steve Sullivan has been named interim general manager. Chayka had three years remaining on his contract after this season. The club had hired Chayka at just 26 years old in May of 2016 after the former junior hockey player co-founded a company called Stathletes. The hiring followed in the league trend of giving analytics a place of prominence in front offices.

Here’s the Coyotes’ full statement:

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.

According to Craig Morgan of Arizona Coyotes Insider, the reasons for Chayka’s termination are in dispute. More from Morgan:

One NHL source said Saturday that during the NHL season’s pause, Chayka asked the Coyotes for permission to pursue another “another professional opportunity” that was not with another team and had sought his release from the organization about six weeks ago. But another source said Sunday that this account is not true.

“John Chayka is a liar and a quitter,” the source said.

Per the source, about a month ago, an NHL owner asked if he could speak to Chayka about an opportunity and was denied that permission by Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo because Chayka had just signed the extension in November (for four more years per one source; for three more years according to another) and had told Meruelo that he and his family were happy in Arizona. Chayka tried to convince Meruelo by telling him that he had been allowed to do so in the past to build relationships around the league.

Per the source, on multiple occasions, Chayka was told that this was not the appropriate time to explore such an opportunity or to discuss it, but it could be revisited at the appropriate time after the season. Still, Chayka wanted out.

Chayka released a statement of his own on Sunday via Morgan:

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.

The NHL is set to return by heading straight into the playoffs after the NHL and NHLPA ratified the return-to-play plan. The league announced the hub cities of Toronto and Edmonton earlier this month. The NHL season was paused four months ago because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Coyotes made the postseason this year due to the league’s expanded playoffs (24 teams), as a result of the coronavirus shutdown. They finished with a regular-season record of 33-29-8 and ranked fifth in the Pacific Division. The Coyotes are set to face the Nashville Predators in the best-of-five qualifying series.

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