The Arizona Coyotes captain and star defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson needs to be traded. Once you evaluate his performance over his 10 years in the NHL, it becomes apparent that his performance has decreased. Of course, on July 1, 2018 the team signed him to an eight-year $66 million contract.
Time to Trade Oliver Ekman-Larsson
While he is the captain of the team, there is very little evidence that he inspires or pushes his teammates to their best performance level. He’s more a quiet guy, and that doesn’t mean he can’t get after guys. It can be assured that he prefers to allow head coach Rick Tocchet to do that instead. When you compare his qualities as captain, let’s just say he’s no Shane Doan.
As a player, his performance just wasn’t up to par this season. He was having opposing players get by him, and he missed assignments time and again. Of course, he is one of those players who can play about 23 minutes a game, and that’s a plus.
He plays the power play and kills penalties, and when a game goes into overtime, you will see him directing that 3-on-3 attack.
Over time before his big contract, he scored 0.35 points per game. This current uncompleted season he has appeared in 66 games and has a 0.32 point per game average. Other parts of his numbers are a bit concerning. His career Corsi For is a decent 50.3 percent and his Relative Corsi is 2.8. Then, this season it went down to 47.5 percent Corsi For and a -0.5 Relative Corsi. That means his puck possession has gone down quite a bit.
The other factor is the power-play unit. This is where his effectiveness has taken a downward trend. He has averaged 5.67 power-play goals a season. This season he has only two. From 2013-14 to 2017-18 he had 44 man advantage tallies or 8.8 per year. Since then over the last two seasons, he has just seven, or 3.5 per year.
The best way to see just how poor Ekman-Larsson has been, though, is to place him side-by-side with another defenceman with a similar cap hit. Ekman-Larsson makes $8.25 million a year, a category that is usually reserved for only the most elite blue-liners. Among these elite defencemen is Victor Hedman, who actually makes less than Ekman-Larsson, at roughly $7.9 million.
To compare the two, we’ll use Evolving-Hockey’s amazing RAPM charts. These graphs chart GF, xGF, CF, xGA, and CA (all per-60) to give a glimpse into how a player performs offensively (GF, xGF), defensively (xGA), controlling the puck and being on the ice for shots-for (CF), and how they perform when their team isn’t in the possession and the other team is recording shots (CA). Ultimately, the higher, or darker blue, the bars of each stat are, the better the player is in that department.
These graphs show a handful of things. Most prominently, it’s visual proof that Ekman-Larsson has actually brought down the Coyotes in seemingly every category. The only stat he breaks league-average in is his CF/60, showing the Coyotes are a bit better at possessing the puck with him on the ice. Still, it’s nothing to write home about. Meanwhile, the cheaper Hedman brings an emphatically elite boost to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s offence, while also holding very strong on defence and in terms of possession numbers. For the pricier paycheck that Ekman-Larsson receives, he hardly brings any boost to the Coyotes lineup.
Whenever you consider trading one of your best players you always want to get a good return. So, what do the Arizona Coyotes need the most? Offence. Since Ekman-Larsson has joined the team in the 2010-11 season the team has placed 28th in both average goals scored and power plays goals. They are in dire need of some offensive firepower.
With the emergence of another Swedish defenceman by the name of Victor Soderstrom, the team can be assured that if they trade Ekman-Larsson, they won’t be driving down their strong defence. Soderstrom is making such good strides that he is projected to be with the NHL team next season. He’s a right-hand shot and seems very mature for his age of 19.
Trade Proposal #1
The team the Coyotes need to transact a trade with should be a team who needs defensive help while exchanging the offence that the Arizona club desires. One team that comes to mind is the Florida Panthers. The player is Aleksander Barkov. He earns $5.9 million against the cap and is signed through 2022-23 season. He has scored 20 or more goals for his last five seasons. At 6′-3″, 213 pounds, he could be the centre that the Yotes have been looking for. He knows how to hit the net too with an impressive 13.4 percent shooting accuracy.
Florida may need to throw in another player or a draft pick to make this an equitable trade. A D-man like Riley Stillman comes to mind. He’s earning $773,333 through the 2020-21 season which is the last year of his entry-level contract.
For Florida adding a premier defenceman like Ekman-Larsson they would be very well set with Aaron Ekblad joining Ekman-Larsson on the first unit. The other factor would be Keith Yandle would be reunited with Ekman-Larsson whom he played with for five years. This instantly improves Florida’s weakness on defence where they ranked 27th allowing 3.25 goals a game. They already possess a really good offence ranked fifth with 3.30 goals scored a game.
Trade Proposal #2
Another team who has really improved this season is the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers could use a quality defenceman like Ekman-Larsson. They aren’t terrible defensively ranking 17th with 3.03 goals allowed a game, but really score at will gathering 3.14 goals a game. With Connor McDavid (34) and Leon Draisaitl (43) pumping pucks into the opposing net on a regular basis, they are set there. Adding Ekman-Larsson could really take them to the next level. And, don’t forget head coach Dave Tippett knows what Ekman-Larsson can do for his team.
For the return to the Coyotes, how about a player who has been in trade rumours for quite some time. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who is 26-years-old. He has eclipsed the 20-goal mark over each of the last three seasons and has averaged 0.73 points per game over his nine years in Edmonton. Another good goal scorer who can put some pep into the Arizona offence. Nygent-Hopkins earns $6 million and his contract expires after next season.
This could be a straight up one-for-one trade, but Arizona will probably ask for a good prospect like Kailer Yamamoto also. The youngster has really impressed with 11 goals, 15 assists in just 27 games this season. It’s debatable that the Oilers would part with him, but don’t forget the return for Ekman-Larsson needs to be more than one player, and Yamamoto can light it up.
Like most trades, a team needs to give up something to receive something in return. While the Coyotes are searching for some instant offence, they won’t get it (especially a centre) without giving up something of equal value. Keep in mind the Arizona team really covets a centre who can score and in the two examples given both can score and play centre.
The other question some fans may ask is, who will replace Ekman-Larsson as captain? Considering they are improving their offence considerably with either proposed deal, they should impress Taylor Hall enough to allow him to stay. Also with either trade as proposed the team would save about $2 million which can be used to convince Hall that this should be his home for eight years. Enough to convince him to put the “C” on his jersey.
If either one of these trades goes down, the Coyotes become a much-improved team that should have no problem getting to the postseason.
And it’s been since 2012 that the playoffs have included the Arizona Coyotes. Maybe with this team including one of the above trades they can FINALLY get there.