Arizona Coyotes general manager John Chayka abruptly resigned on Sunday, one week before the franchise are to open their first playoff series in eight years.
The Coyotes confirmed Chayka's decision in a brusque statement in which the team announced that assistant GM Steve Sullivan will fill the position on an interim basis.
"John Chayka has quit as the general manager and president of hockey operations of the Arizona Coyotes," the statement 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."
Chayka, the youngest GM in professional sports history when he was hired by the Coyotes at age 26 in May 2016, had signed a contract extension in November that was to run through 2024. Under his direction, Arizona improved from 70 points in 2017-18 to 86 last season, and the Coyotes went 33-29-8 during the abbreviated 2019-20 campaign to earn the number 11 seed in the expanded Western Conference playoffs.
Arizona last qualified for the postseason in 2011-12. The Coyotes will face number six seed Nashville in the Western Conference qualifying round in the Edmonton bubble, with the best-of-five series scheduled to begin on August 2.
As the team got better on the ice, however, Chayka's relationship with owner Alex Meruelo and upper management apparently was deteriorating. According to Sportsnet.ca, the source of the friction was over the Coyotes refusing to grant permission for him to speak with another organisation about a potential opportunity.
Chayka issued a statement about his departure to AZ Coyotes Insider, but did not offer specifics about his reason for leaving.
"I love our players, coaches 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," he stated. "That's all I intend to say on this matter for now. A fuller, more detailed explanation may be necessary in the near future."
Chayka also gave his support to Sullivan, a former Coyotes player who has been in the team's front office since 2014.
"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," he said.