By: Lucas Pearson | Follow Me On Twitter @LucasPearson_
Oliver Ekman-Larsson would look excellent in black and gold. With the recent news that Arizona is looking to shed salary (and quite a bit of it) I’d think anyone not named Barrett Hayton and Jacob Chychrun could be in play, including their captain. According to Elliot Friedman, the Bruins are interested, and why wouldn’t they be?
OEL has been a workhorse for one of the worst teams in the league over the past ten or so years. He’s never missed more than seven games a season and absolutely eats up icetime for the Yotes. The Swede has averaged over 24 minutes a game since his rookie season and has hit double digit goals in six straight seasons (and would’ve likely been seven as he finished this year with nine before the shutdown). He’s an excellent skater and would do wonders in a prominent role with the Bruins.
Ekman-Larsson would also benefit one man more than most, that being Charlie McAvoy. McAvoy’s defensive game has improved a ton because of the living legend that is Zdeno Chara, but it’s pretty clear that the Boston University product looks way more dynamic with a partner that can skate (see: Matt Grzelcyk). If the five time all-star was paired with McAvoy, they would be one of, if not the most dynamic defensive pairings in the league. Their superb first pass as well as their legs would make the two dangerous in any zone on the ice. So if you’re Don Sweeney, why don’t you go after Ekman-Larsson?
So as good of a player OEL is, his contract will certainly scare some people away. He’s locked up for another seven years at a cap hit of $8.25 million. Now if I’m being honest, the cap hit isn’t as big of an issue as it may seem. If we think of OEL as a replacement for Krug, the cap hit doesn’t look too bad. With Krug likely to get upwards of $7 million on the open market, you’d think a guy as good as Ekman-Larsson is worth the (give or take) million more AAV than the more one-dimensional Torey Krug. But the bigger issue is the term.
At seven years, the contract will take the Swede to his age 35 season, and we’ve learned paying mid-late 30’s players doesn’t really turn out too well. I will say, given how Ekman-Larsson plays the game and his essentially non-existent injury history gives me some hope he would still be able to play at a pretty high level throughout his contract. But it’s still too tough of a gamble to take.
Hefty contract or not, the Coyotes are not going to just gift their captain to any team. You gotta give to get. As for the package for Ekman-Larsson? In terms of recent trades featuring big time defensemen, I look at the deal for Jacob Trouba as a bit of comparison. He’s another dman thats making $8 million a year that was traded to the Rangers after a big year in Winnipeg. He was able to net a 1st round pick and young defenseman Neal Pionk.
If I’m the Bruins, Brandon Carlo is off limits, I would rather dangle prospect Urho Vaakanainen instead. With the defensive depth in their system and in the NHL right now, moving someone like Vaakanainen isn’t the end of the world, especially when you’re left and right side are pretty full. But I really can’t see the Coyotes doing a deal without getting Jake Debrusk in return. He’s cost controlled and would allow them to trade some of their veteran forwards making hefty money (Derek Stepan, Michael Grabner etc) to regain some draft stock. Add that with at least a 2nd round pick and likely another young forward, maybe Karson Kuhlman or Zach Senyshyn and that is a huge price to pay.
So ultimately, if I’m Don Sweeney, do I pull the trigger? If OEL’s contract was five years at $7 million, I would think looooong and hard about it, but unfortunately that’s not the contract OEL has. The NHL is a cap league and adding $8 million to your cap isn’t a recipe for success. I hope if Torey Krug leaves, the Bruins can find a suitable replacement, but I don’t think Ekman-Larsson is within the cards.