By: Tommy Bennett: Follow Me On Twitter @TJBennettt37
The offseason is in full swing for the Boston Bruins. Player development camps will kick off, and the National Hockey League Entry Draft is next week. In addition, the free agency frenzy will occur. It is safe to say that general manager Don Sweeney will be a busy man.
Priority number one for Don Sweeney is locking up young goaltender Jeremy Swayman. Reports of him doing what he can to keep Tyler Bertuzzi are also at the top of the list. However, there are outside names that could intrigue the manager. One of those names is defensemen Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson is a former first-round pick by the Arizona Coyotes in 2009. The 31-year-old veteran defenseman has spent eleven of his thirteen-year career with the club. A big trade sent him packing to Vancouver, where he has spent his last two years.
Ekman-Larsson can be a solid two-way defenseman, but that has not happened. However, he does have a cannon of a shot with high finishing ability from the back end. Throughout his career, Ekman-Larsson has amassed 175 power-play points. In 902 career games, he scored 135 goals, 304 assists, and 439 points. He still has good hockey left in the tank, given his age.
Not The First Trip Around The Block
This is not the first time the Boston Bruins have been linked to the veteran. In the summer of 2021, the Arizona Coyotes informed the veteran of their plans. It shocked him as he envisioned himself in the desert until the end of his deal. The veteran said, “I signed because I wanted to be in Arizona until I’m 36,” Ekman-Larsson told Ronnkvist. “When this rumor appeared, it felt awkward, and it was a tough situation. I had never been in a situation like this before with trade rumors. Mentally, it was tough.”
The rumors were true, and the veteran was shipped off to Vancouver along with Connor Garland. At the time, the interest made sense. Torey Krug left in free agency to the St. Louis Blues, and the Bruins had a vacant hole in their top four. However, the biggest hurdle was the contract. Vancouver has gone ahead and bought out the remainder of the contract. This makes Oliver Ekman-Larsson a free agent. The interest has been there before, and should Don Sweeney reconsider around the player or stay away?
Pros To Signing Him
Even though he is not the player Arizona paid him to be and the one Vancouver traded for, there is an upside to his game.
The veteran is not afraid to throw the puck on the net. However, of the 197 that were attempted, 97 of his shots were blocked. In addition, 90 made their way to the net, and 37 missed it. Compared to last season, his Corsi For and Fenwick percentages dropped 1-2%, respectively. In addition, his point production dropped seven points from the previous season.
However, some intangibles make him an intriguing asset. He is a veteran presence and a former captain. The veteran may not have the same experience that some of the players on this Bruins roster have, but he does have 13 years of experience.
Cons To Signing Him
There is a case to be made to stay away from the player entirely. Yes, it won’t cost the Bruins the $8.5 million that he was making, but he also wasn’t playing like that, either. What Vancouver thought they would be getting was not the case.
Things were not so good in Vancouver for the defensemen. Here is where he ranked in specific categories for the club among defensemen:
- Corsi For: 48.08% (5th)
- Expected Goals: 134.84-145.31 5th)
- High Danger Chances: 513-575 (6th)
- High Danger Goals: 70-76 (8th)
- Scoring Chances: 1296-1415 (6th)
It is safe to say that when he was on the ice, the opposition had their way against him. The game was tilted in their favor. Not to mention, his 165 goals against was the third most for any defenseman on the team. For a guy making that much money, you expect better results.
He was not better as a pair either. For a large part of the season, he was alongside Tyler Myers. The pair did not do a very good job of shot suppression (2.94 expected goals per 60 minutes). They also averaged the third most goals against per game with 3.89. In addition, he could not anchor another pair. In the 130 minutes alongside Luke Schenn, the pair had the highest expected goals against per 60 minutes (3.36). They averaged 4.15 goals against per game, which is beyond their expected rate and most among any pair. Every pair, he was on average of 2.5, and that’s not good.
Given the current cap space for the Boston Bruins, this is not the first name I would circle around. Priorities for this roster lie within. Taking care of those first and foremost make the most sense.
There might be questions surrounding the blueline, but adding Oliver Ekman-Larsson is not an upgrade. Even though he is a bigger body (6’2, 200 pounds), his cons outweigh his pros. Despite the vacant holes that may be on the roster, they can be filled in other ways. He may not cost a lot, but the money can be spent in more impactful ways.
Verdict: Stay Away