The Arizona Coyotes, attempting to free up some salary during the offseason, tried to trade their top defenseman, Oliver Ekman-Larsson. With a no-movement clause embedded within his eight-year, $66MM contract, Ekman-Larsson only gave the team two teams, the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks, he would be willing to accept a trade to and refused any other suggestions. It proved to be a challenging task for new general manager Bill Armstrong and with no quality offers from either team, the Coyotes opted to keep him in house.
However, Boston Hockey Now’s Joe Haggerty writes that there remains a chance that the Boston Bruins could still end up with Ekman-Larsson. While the Canucks have since acquired Nate Schmidt to augment their defensive corps, the Bruins still have a number of holes in their defense after the departure of Torey Krug to St. Louis and with the uncertain status of veteran Zdeno Chara. The team only has three established top-four players in Charlie McAvoy, Matt Grzelcyk and Brandon Carlo and are hoping veterans Kevan Miller and John Moore can bounce back or youngsters Urho Vaakanainen or Jakub Zboril can step up and establish themselves as full-time players next season.
However, if the team can’t get some of those defensemen to take that next step, the Bruins might be more open to re-engage with Arizona about trading for Ekman-Larsson. With Krug gone, it’s likely that McAvoy and Grzelcyk would see a jump in their offensive numbers next year, but the team could definitely benefit from a player who has scored 10 goals of more for six straight years (would have been seven had the league not been shut down due to COVID-19), as well as two 20-goal seasons.
While Ekman-Larsson gave Arizona a window of time earlier in the offseason to send him to either Vancouver or Boston, that window has closed. However, in a recent interview with Coyotes’ insider Craig Morgan (subscription required), Ekman-Larsson suggested he’d still be open to being traded.
“That’s a question for (GM) Bill (Armstrong) to be honest with you,” said Ekman-Larsson. “There’s not much I can do about it. I’m just trying to stay in the moment. I know everybody says that but I really had a good offseason. I worked out really hard to show that I wanted to be here, wanted to get better and hopefully that transfers into the stuff on the ice. I feel really happy that I am here but if that day comes where they ask again, I will deal with it then.”
Haggerty writes that the likely timeline for a trade would be closer to the trade deadline as the Bruins want to give Vaakanainen and Zboril a chance to prove that they can handle everyday NHL duties first. If one or both can step up and prove themselves, then the team doesn’t have to do anything. However, with many questions if they are potential top-four options down the road, the team could choose to add Ekman-Larsson for their stretch run.
Boston has approximately $6.7MM in available cap space, which sounds good if they want to go out and get Ekman-Larsson. However, the Bruins still have to work out a deal with restricted free-agent Jake Debrusk and still hope to bring Chara back, if he so chooses. That likely will use up their remaining cap space. Haggerty writes for Arizona to make the trade work, the Coyotes would have to take back Moore’s contract. The veteran still has three years at $2.75MM and potentially another contract. Boston would almost certainly have to include a prospect like Vaakanainen as well.