Even before the Arizona Coyotes have hired a new head coach, they are once again flirting with the idea of an Oliver Ekman-Larsson trade. It was last posted by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) June 20, 2021
Arizona Coyotes Will Consider Trading Oliver Ekman-Larsson Once Again
This time the conditions or parameters will be different. Instead of having OEL give a list of teams he will waive his no-trade clause to be moved to, the team will put his name out there and allow him to decide if he wants to accept a deal. He still has the power to turn down any trade with his contract clause. The question then becomes which teams will show interest, and better yet, which teams could even entertain his contract? He has six years remaining at $8.25 million AAV. The real kicker is he is due $10.5 million a year over the next three years before the contract starts decreasing. Let’s just say OEL’s agent Kevin Epp did a fine job negotiating that contract.
Last season, if you recall, the trade rumours were flying concerning Ekman-Larsson’s future in the desert. In the end, OEL decided he would only consider a trade to either the Vancouver Canucks or Boston Bruins. New Coyotes’ general manager Bill Armstrong never was tempted enough to move OEL and he remained on the team. It’s not as if the management of the Yotes didn’t make it clear that they wanted to reduce their salary cap issues. Eliminating, or reducing OEL’s contract seemed to be a big priority. Other such contracts that former GM John Chayka generously passed out should be reevaluated. Now that the season ended and the playoffs are down to four teams, it seems that the timing is right again to see what the Coyotes can do to move Ekman-Larsson.
It’s More Than About Money
While OEL’s contract eats a large portion of the team’s salary cap budget (10.38 percent), his play over the last couple of seasons has raised alarms as to his worth to the team going forward. Some say that was due to the way head coach Rick Tocchet used the Karlskrona, Sweden native and 11-year NHL veteran. Yet, much needs to be attributed to OEL’s play in general. In the four seasons prior to Tocchet’s arrival, OEL had 181 points. When Tocchet took over for Dave Tippett, OEL’s numbers went down to 140 points, but don’t forget the last two seasons were shortened affairs due to COVID-19 limitations.
Every coach has a different style and method to use their roster. It now seems that with the dramatic upsurge of play demonstrated by Jakob Chychrun, that he could very well be the next captain of the Coyotes if OEL leaves. It also appears that this time around Ekman-Larsson is more open to allowing the team to put his name out there. And then see who is interested in his services. Under the circumstances that may be the best thing for OEL as well as the team. He may become refreshed with a new start. Considering he has been in Arizona his entire NHL career, it’s probably time to move on.
Coyotes Blueline Will Change Dramatically
Even before the trade news came, the team was about to experience a completely different look for 2021-22. Ekman-Larsson along with Chychrun and Ilya Lyubushkin are the only defencemen under contract for next season. Lyubushkin could get exposed in the Seattle expansion draft leaving the team really low on the blueline. Of course, GM Armstrong may bring back Alex Goligoski since he had a really productive 2020-21 season after starting slow. Now with the possibility of losing OEL, that presents a whole new set of challenges for Armstrong to work through. Any deal he intends to make involving OEL almost must include a quality piece coming back the other way.
While it is tempting to try to speculate which team OEL will allow a trade to be done, let’s just concentrate on the team’s needs. They definitely need draft picks desperately. The cupboards are bare and building a winning team needs to be from the bottom up. Armstrong knows that and if it means the Coyotes must wait a few years to get competitive, then so be it. He is in the midst of some really huge decisions to turn this team around. Trading OEL may not be a popular one. Yet it seems to be a necessary objective to advance the team’s standing.
Ekman-Larsson Deserves a Chance to Win a Cup
He has been in Arizona for 11 years without even a slim chance to raise the Cup. He was in Arizona for the 2011-12 season when they went to the Western Conference Final but lost to the Los Angeles Kings. If a contending team wants to add a veteran defenceman like OEL to augment their chances of winning it all, it may be an ideal place for him to land. In the end, the money may get in the way because of his huge contract. If the Coyotes are adamant about moving him, they will more than likely need to take some of the salary back to make it work. It is not rocket science and is done on many trade deals. Now is the time for everyone to see what Armstrong’s GM abilities are. Can he trade OEL and not lose the farm? If so, he should do it.