Another off-season, another attempt by the Arizona Coyotes and defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson to scour the trade market for a potential fit. The two sides worked together last year to find a new home for Ekman-Larsson, but to no avail. The veteran defenseman offered only two possible destinations – the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks – that he would waive his No-Movement Clause for and neither team made a suitable offer. As a result, Ekman-Larsson played for the ’Yotes again this season. One year later and one year further into his eight-year, $66MM contract, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports that they will again try to find a suitable trade fit this off-season.
Per Friedman, the approach this summer will be different. Rather than Ekman-Larsson telling Arizona where he would be willing to go, GM Bill Armstrong will gauge the market and bring offers from any interested teams back to OEL to see if he is also interested. This doesn’t necessarily mean that their odds of finding a deal will improve, especially if Ekman-Larsson remains narrowly focused on just a few possible destinations, but it will allow for the Coyotes to better understand his market value so as to potentially work with those teams that he would go to. Boston and Vancouver for instance are both still in need of a top-four defenseman.
Market value could be the key here as the ’Yotes very likely think more highly of Ekman-Larsson’s worth than do other teams around the league. They are after all the ones who signed him to his current albatross of a contract, which still has six years left at an $8.25MM AAV. OEL also did little to improve his trade stock this season; while his offense recovered to his career average, his time on ice per game fell to a new low since his rookie season and his per-game shots, blocks, and hits were all below his career average. Any deal would almost certainly have to include salary retention by the Coyotes, but the return may also be less than what they might have expected and wanted. With that said, Ekman-Larsson is still on the right side of 30 (for another month) and has a strong track record in the NHL, so there could very well be teams that still see the upside in adding the accomplished veteran to their blue line.