The Vancouver Canucks are heading into an offseason where they need to clear up cap space in order to improve their roster. With a cap crunch and three key forwards due to become free agents in the next two offseasons, the team will have to offload a few contracts.
The Canucks have two veteran defencemen they can move to accomplish this goal. Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Tyler Myers both have big cap hits and are players president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford and Patrik Allvin could trade in order to free up some cap. Both players have been involved in trade rumors over the past few months, which shows the front office is interested in moving them. Ideally, trading both would help, but it is likely the club only chooses to move one of the defenders.
Case to Keep Ekman-Larsson and Trade Myers
Ekman-Larsson played well for the Canucks away from his offensive production. He was one of the best defencemen in his own zone at one point in the season. Only two defencemen that played at least 200 minutes at 5-on-5 had a lower rate of goals against than the Swedish vet in January, teammate Luke Schenn and Nashville Predators Philippe Myers. Additionally, he was a stabilizer for Tyler Myers when the two played together.
Both players are expected to excel in the offensive zone but have struggled to produce over the past few seasons. However, Myers struggled a bit more than Ekman-Larsson last season, even with the Swede seeing fewer power-play minutes than usual in his first season with the Canucks. Head-to-head, Ekman-Larsson outproduced Myers last season as he posted five goals and 29 points in 79 games on the season. Meanwhile, Myers posted one goal and 18 points in 82 games. Additionally, Ekman-Larsson holds value as a potential replacement if Quinn Hughes suffers an injury. He has the skill set to be a first-line defenceman and a quarterback on the power play.
Away from the ice, there are a few reasons why trading Myers is an easier option than moving Ekman-Larsson. Teams will likely be more inclined to add Myers and his contract than Ekman-Larsson’s contract. Additionally, Ekman-Larsson has a no-move clause, giving him full control of his future, while Myers has a no-trade clause, which becomes a 10-team no-trade list in July. Therefore, the Canucks have a bit more control in moving Myers. Also, Myers has two years remaining on his deal, while Ekman-Larsson has five seasons remaining. He also has a lower cap hit of $6 million compared to Ekman-Larsson’s $7.260 million. Adding a contract with two years remaining is a lot easier for teams than one with five years remaining.
The Canucks also gave up a ninth overall pick in the trade for Ekman-Larsson. The club’s prospects pool is the worst it’s been in years, and giving up the pick in the 2021 Draft only hurt the club. Therefore trading Ekman-Larsson would make the loss of the ninth overall pick a little worse.
Case To Keep Myers and Trade Ekman-Larsson
Although it is easier to trade Myers than Ekman-Larsson, trading the Swedish defenceman is the team’s best move for the future. Myers’ deal ends in two seasons, which is in time for an Elias Pettersson pay raise. The Canucks can wait out his contract instead of trading him. As for Ekman-Larsson, his contract will hurt the Canucks if he is unable to find his game offensively. He neared the 40-point mark before joining the Canucks, and his age and situation suggest it is very unlikely he will be able to consistently string together 40-point campaigns over the next five seasons. He’ll be 36 by the time his contract is up, and he will likely be stuck playing behind Hughes at 5-on-5 and on the power play.
Myer is a right-shot defenceman, which is a position the Canucks lack both on the main roster and in their prospect pool. Meanwhile, the club has replacements in case Ekman-Larsson departs. Jack Rathbone has been waiting for an NHL opportunity for some time and seems like he is ready to take that step next season.
Trading Ekman-Larsson Tougher Than Trading Myers
Although keeping Myers over Ekman-Larsson helps in the long term, moving the Swede will be difficult. The length of his contract and decline in his offensive output hurts the Canucks in a potential deal, as well as the control he has thanks to his no-move clause. Myers’ contract is easier for other teams to add, and he only has a 10-team no-trade list starting in July. Losing the defenceman would leave a hole on the right side of the club’s blue line and would require them to find replacement options.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.