The future of captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson may no longer be in the desert with the Arizona Coyotes needing to make some difficult decisions.
The possibility of a trade for Ekman-Larsson was recently touched upon by Sportsnet reporter Elliotte Friedman during a recent episode of Headlines, where he commented on it being an interesting storyline to follow.
Whether or not the Coyotes were considering moving on from their captain of the past two seasons or not, this may be something that becomes a stronger possibility thanks to the recent NHL sanctions against the organization.
Due to the league determining that the Coyotes had violated their scouting combine policy, conducting physical tests with draft-eligible players, the club was stripped of their second-round pick in 2020 and their first-round pick in 2021.
This leaves them without a pick until the fourth round in this year’s draft and just one pick (either a second or third depending on Taylor Hall negotiations) in the first three rounds next year, leaving their next full-time general manager with an extremely difficult position to build for the future.
The Coyotes hierarchy may decide that they are content with trying to compete in the short-term, aiming for free-agent additions rather than looking to stockpile talented prospects for a brighter future.
But this would be another disappointing decision for a team that has neglected the “draft and develop” method of building for many years.
Even John Chayka, who left the team under unusual circumstances just before the post-season, focused more on trading and building a team with veterans rather than working on youth and development.
Ekman-Larsson, who was once viewed as being one of the best defensemen in the game, with a strong offensive upside, may be the team’s best chance at recouping draft picks that they have lost, with the veteran left-handed shot still having a lot of value.
He may have had some down years recently, at least offensively, but OEL has transitioned himself into more of a defense-first player that is still extremely reliable and, more importantly, still has ‘name factor’ when considering the possibility of a trade.
.@FriedgeHNIC: I think there’s a willingness from the Coyotes to trade Ekman-Larsson and a willingness from him to move. 1 of the issues is that he has a $4m bonus that is due in September. I could see the Coyotes doing it beforehand & teams saying we’re not going to do that now.— Sportsnet 650 (@Sportsnet650) August 26, 2020
Other teams around the NHL will look at Ekman-Larsson and think about how he was a regular Norris Trophy candidate, with some leadership attributes, while his ‘down’ years still saw him average around 40 points a season (or on pace for) while the Coyotes overall seemed to put themselves closer to post-season contention under ordinary circumstances.
His $8.25 million a season contract is something the Arizona Coyotes could also do with parting ways with, opening up space for them to address other areas of the team, especially on offense.
The Coyotes have a strong defensive corps and have Victor Soderstrom likely to make the jump up at some point next season, opening the door for a big shuffle in personnel, especially players that have hefty contracts, such as OEL and potentially Alex Goligoski.
A deal where the Coyotes can stockpile some early-round picks, potentially adding a promising prospect in the process also, could help their next general manager start working towards building a team in their own image, working on a style that fits their own philosophy, or that of the coaching staff if Rick Tocchet is kept on board.
It would be a sad situation to see Ekman-Larsson leave the desert, after so many years of great service, but reports have indicated that the club will explore the possibility of moving him, with his permission due to his No-Movement Clause.
If the Coyotes can land a good deal for their captain, then it will be one that helps secure the future of the organization rather than improving them in the immediate future.