Analyzing the Oliver Ekman-Larsson Trade From the Arizona Coyotes Perspective

Oliver Ekman-Larsson Trade
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Well, it had been rumoured for quite some time but finally, on the first day of the 2021 NHL Draft, the Oliver Ekman-Larsson trade happened. It wasn’t easy seeing that his massive eight-year $66 million contract was difficult to swallow. The Vancouver Canucks will be thinking about that until the lengthy contract expires after the 2026-27 season. OEL will be 36 years old by then and it makes you wonder why the Canucks pulled the trigger on the deal. The Coyotes did retain $1.25 million a year (or 12 percent) for the length of the contract, but Vancouver will be on the hook for quite a while.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson And Conor Garland Are Now Vancouver Canucks

It could have been that general manager Jim Benning was satisfied with relieving himself of three contracts he sent to Arizona. Not having to pay Loui Eriksson ($6M), Jay Beagle ($3M), and Antoine Roussel ($3M) was what made the deal work. The missing factor in all of this was that Conor Garland also had his rights traded to Vancouver in the trade. The Coyotes got the #9 selection in the draft held Friday, July 23rd, plus a second-rounder in 2022 and a seventh-round pick in 2023. There should be no doubt that Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong is stockpiling draft picks.

NHL free agent frenzy

Crazy Offseason Leads to Trade

The theme, it seems for trades in this pandemic shortened season is all about cap space. Teams are letting players go for nothing in return to recoup cap space since the salary cap limit is stagnant at $81.5 million. A perfect example of this was the trade that Armstrong pulled off the day before the draft. He acquired defenceman Shayne Gostisbehere from the Philadelphia Flyers for a second and seventh-round pick in 2022. It seems curious that the Coyotes would trade for ‘Ghost’ unless they had a pretty good idea that they would deal OEL the next day. Both players are offensive D-men who specialize on the power play.

The rest of the OEL/Garland trade shows that the Canucks wanted Garland and the Coyotes wanted draft picks. With the #9 selection in the draft, the Coyotes chose forward Dylan Guenther. He had been projected to go as high as #3 to the Anaheim Ducks but fell down to the Coyotes. Guenther may be just what the Desert Dogs needed, a scorer who has a great shot and finds open spaces to shoot. He may not be a quick replacement for Garland depending on his development process, but the team addressed one of its weaknesses.

The Coyotes Helped the Canucks Cap Space Issue

It remains to be seen if Eriksson, Beagle, and Roussel can help the Coyotes move forward. Eriksson who just turned 36 has not had more than 29 points in a season for the last five years. Last season he only participated in seven games. Beagle was only in 30 games last season with one goal and four assists. Roussel played in 35 games last year with one goal and three assists to his credit. He did have 63 hits to display his physical style of play. He is the youngest of the three new faces on the Coyotes being 31 years old.

So what was the theory behind Armstrong acquiring three players with very limited offensive skills? Especially when the team lacks that ingredient in their game? Good question. While Vancouver got rid of three contracts totalling $12 million, all three will be unrestricted free agents after next season. The only attraction to Beagle and Roussel is that they play a physical game, which Armstrong seems to covet. Beagle who stands 6′-3″, 210 pounds has handed out 732 hits in 613 NHL games. Roussel who is 5′-11″, 199 pounds has had 826 hits in 554 games. So, let’s just say the trio wasn’t acquired for their offensive prowess.

The factor that becomes confusing is it was thought that Armstrong was preaching that he wanted the team to focus on younger players. Gaining a 36-year-old, a 35-year-old, and a 31-year-old certainly tests that focus.

The Salary Cap Ruled in Oliver Ekman-Larsson Trade

In the end, for both teams, the salary cap limitations ruled this trade. Both teams were overjoyed to remove salary cap limits and for the Coyotes gaining the #9 draft selection was a motivating factor for certain. With all the deals that Armstrong has orchestrated the team’s youth movement got a real shot in the arm. Next year is projected to be a much better draft, and Armstrong knew that when he gained all those draft picks.

End of an Era For OEL in Arizona

While Ekman-Larsson’s 11 years in Arizona are over, his mark was made. He participated in 769 games with 128 goals and 260 assists for 388 points. OEL was a workhorse averaging 23:26 minutes of ice time. He had 56 man-advantage goals and 107 assists. There is a good chance that his #23 jersey will be lifted to the rafters of Gila River Arena at some point. For reasons unknown his play over the last several years has deteriorated and now he has a chance to start over in Vancouver. He deserves that chance and will attempt to show the Canucks organization that he is well worth that enormous contract. Time will tell.

Losing Conor Garland Hurts

This young player will be missed most assuredly. Another drafted player by the franchise is off to another team. Without knowing all the details, it just seemed inevitable that the Coyotes weren’t going to re-sign him after giving him a meagre $775,000 a year the last two seasons. He is worth much more. He has been the heart and soul of the Yotes over the last couple of years. That’s hard to replace. Even with a good prospect like Guenther coming on board, the timetable for him to actually play in the NHL is scary and unknown.

Final Analysis

This was a trade that is difficult to determine which team won. It seems both teams accomplished what they set out to do. The Coyotes may still not be done. There are continuing rumours about the futures of Darcy Kuemper and even Christian Dvorak remaining on the roster. Does Armstrong have more tricks up his sleeve? He certainly is going about attempting to improve the team. It may take a few years, but at least he knows the path he wants to follow. And that is a definite improvement over his predecessor.

Whether one or both of these teams have improved enough with this trade to make them a playoff team is still questionable.

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