The Montreal Canadiens need a top pairing left-handed defenceman to be competitive. That is the consensus amongst Habs fans. Recently, insider Elliotte Friedman talked about the Arizona Coyotes possibly moving on from their captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Friedman said that he wasn’t sure it would happen but that it could happen depending on what the ownership and the new general manager want to do. It would be a match made in heaven for the Habs if he becomes available.
The Montreal Canadiens Could Improve Drastically by Trading for Oliver Ekman-Larsson
Why Should the Habs Make an Offer?
Oliver Ekman-Larsson Player Profile
Oliver Ekman-Larsson is a great top-pairing defenceman. He has been the star player of the Arizona Coyotes for a while now. This past season he had nine goals 21 assists for 30 points in 66 games. He has scored more than 20 goals twice in his career which is something only a few defencemen in the NHL can do. He can be the quarterback on the powerplay and he can also kill penalties.
Getting That Top-Pairing Left-Handed Defenceman
There have been a lot of talks in the past few months about how the Habs will be able to get a top-pairing left-handed defenceman and how it is important for them to do so to be a competitive team next season. It is the biggest hole in the Canadiens lineup.
The Other Option
The other top paring left-handed defenceman that was discussed to join the Habs was Torey Krug. The Habs would have to make a choice between OEL and Krug. Getting Krug would mean that the Canadiens wouldn’t have to give anything in return since he is an unrestricted free agent. However, there is no guarantee that he would sign with the Habs and not with another team. Signing Ekman-Larsson would be safer but it would cost a lot. Due to the uncertainty of signing Krug, the Habs could very well get their hands on the Swedish defenceman if he is made available by the Coyotes. However, it is important to note that Ekman-Larsson has a No-Movement Clause on his contract which means he would have to agree to be traded to Montreal.
The State of the Defence
If OEL is available, the Habs must be aggressive in the derby. With an aging Shea Weber and an aging Carey Price, the window is going to be closed soon enough for the Montreal Canadiens, and acquiring Ekman-Larsson would be a big step towards becoming a contender. With the emergence of Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi, this team could be a contender faster than anyone would’ve thought especially with the potential addition of OEL. Also, with Alexander Romanov joining the team next season and Ben Chiarot being better than expected, the left side on defence would look great. As a matter of fact, the defensive core itself would be incredible with Shea Weber and Jeff Petry on the right. Also, OEL would help the Canadiens powerplay that has struggled all year long.
What Could Go the Other Way in a Trade?
To clarify, in this section we’ll look at a few assets that the Canadiens could part ways with, in an eventual deal with the Coyotes. Therefore, this is not the trade the Habs would have to make but rather a few pieces that Arizona could acquire. To see potential trades teams could offer for OEL, LWOS writer William Grigsby published an interesting piece earlier this year discussing this topic.
It’s pretty obvious that the Arizona Coyotes need offence. They finished 23rd this past season for GF/GP (goals for per games played) with 2.71. With that in mind, they could get back a player they traded away a couple of years ago, Max Domi. There’s been a similar situation a few days ago with the Pittsburgh Penguins acquiring Kasperi Kapanen after trading him a few years ago so it’s possible. There is no place for Domi down the middle in Montreal with the emergence of Suzuki and Kotkaniemi and the two-way game that Phillip Danault brings. Therefore, the Habs could part ways with the 25-year-old. Domi would certainly help the Yotes offensively. He’s a skillful centerman that can grind the opponent’s gears and would fit perfectly on their top-six.
The Habs possess a lot of picks in the upcoming draft but, most importantly, they possess the 16th overall pick. This could be an interesting asset for the Coyotes that don’t have a first-round pick this year and next year. Their 2020 first-round pick belongs to the New Jersey Devils and was acquired in the Taylor Hall trade and they lost their 2021 first-round pick. They could really use the 16th overall pick and the Canadiens have three second-round picks in 2020 which would make it easier for them to part ways with the 16th overall pick.
Finally, the Canadiens have a lot of good prospects in the system and would probably have to reach in their prospect pool for this trade. Arizona could be interested in a goal scorer like Cole Caufield selected 15th overall by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. As mentioned earlier, the Coyotes need more offence and Caufield could help them out in the near future. This may be a bit of an overpayment given Caufield’s recent success but it’d get the ball rolling on what it would take to bring a true top-two left-defenseman to Montreal. There are also, of course, other prospects available.