Oilers Should Target Ekman-Larsson in Offseason Trade

It is looking increasingly unlikely that Edmonton Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom will be back to begin the 2021-22 season, or if he’ll even be able to play in the NHL again. This news means the Oilers could be looking to find a left-shooting defenseman to bring into the fold. With rumors beginning to swirl as the offseason heads into full swing, names are beginning to surface in trade talks.

Oscar Klefbom Edmonton Oilers
Oscar Klefbom, Edmonton Oilers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Oliver Ekman-Larsson of the Arizona Coyotes is a name that’s been on the block before, but was never moved. The Oilers checked in on Ekman-Larsson, but his no-movement clause made a trade difficult to manufacture, especially during the regular season. With more teams having flexibility during the offseason, the Oilers will need to circle back on previous discussions to acquire Ekman-Larsson as Arizona is fielding offers on their star defenseman.

Oilers Current Blue Line

The Oilers have some holes to fill on their blue line this offseason with Adam Larsson, Tyson Barrie, Dmitry Kulikov, and Slater Koekkoek all hitting unrestricted free agency. The Oilers will also need to give up a player in the Seattle expansion draft – many believe 24-year-old Caleb Jones will be the player selected.

Left DefenseRight Defense
Darnell NurseEthan Bear
Kris RussellEvan Bouchard
William LagessonPotential Offseason Signing
This is the current Oilers blueline heading into the 2021 offseason, not including any of the teams pending free agents who could return on new deals.

This leaves the Oilers with a significantly depleted defense corps, assuming all of the aforementioned players do not return. The Oilers will most likely be making moves to improve their current situation, but very few players on the free-agent market will be able to match the play of Ekman-Larsson without Edmonton having to overpay to obtain his services. Although the team already has Darnell Nurse as the workhorse on the left side of the top pairing, it shouldn’t dismiss the premise of going after another star blueline to help shoulder the load on the backend.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson Arizona Coyotes
Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Oilers lack blueline depth and will need to address both their right and left sides to some extent during the offseason if they lose some of their free agents to the open market. While there are more cost-effective options that could emerge, it would be nice to land such a solid and reliable two-way defenseman as Ekman-Larsson.

Why Target Ekman-Larsson?

The main question here relates to targeting a potentially declining 30-year-old defenseman making $8.25 million until the end of the 2026-27 season when the Oilers already have Nurse in a No. 1 role who will likely command a similar salary in 2022-23. Despite Ekman-Larsson struggling to produce offensively the last few seasons, he still has a history of being a productive player on a lackluster team. The Swede has put together strong offensive seasons with 30-plus points in 8 of his 11 NHL seasons.

Related: Oilers Need to Address Their Goaltending This Offseason

This also makes sense for the Oilers from a cost standpoint, because Ekman-Larsson could be looking for a fresh start in another organization. This means that in order to move such a large contract in a flat-cap world, Arizona will likely have to retain some salary in order to make their asset more attractive to potential buyers. The Oilers could trade to get a solid defenseman at a good value with cost-certainty over the next five years.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson Arizona Coyotes
Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

While putting together a trade and agreeing to a deal are part of the battle in a deal for Ekman-Larsson, the other factor is is the defenseman willing to waive his no-move clause to head north of the border. While it may seem unlikely considering Edmonton was not one of the two teams on his initial list of trade destinations, that could change depending on which teams are willing to make a play to acquire his services.

“The two sides are going to try again, but this time around they’re going to approach it differently. What Ekman-Larsson has told the Coyotes and what the Coyotes have agreed to do is they’re going to go out there, check the market and they’re going to bring a deal to him and then he can decide if he’s comfortable with that team.”

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman

With the 6-foot-2 blueliner in desperate need of a fresh start to try and rejuvenate his career, playing for a new team next season may not be a bad thing no matter where it is. It’s hard to ignore the fact that you can play with two of the league’s best in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on a team that should be in the mix for some Stanley Cup runs. Perhaps the familiarity with Edmonton head coach Dave Tippett, Ekman-Larsson’s former coach in Arizona, could also play a role in his decision.

Oilers Potential Trade Pieces

The Oilers will have to make a pretty sweet offer in order to pry the Coyotes’ captain out of Arizona and will likely need to include a combination of draft compensation and prospects. The Oilers do have all their first-round selections at their disposal for the foreseeable future and are only missing a fourth-round pick out of the 14 draft picks they own between 2022 and 2023. Parting with a significant future draft pick will likely form the basis of a deal, but will need to involve some other components.

Related: Oilers 2020-21 Season Report Cards: Barrie, Puljujarvi, Turris, Smith, and Ennis

Cue Philip Broberg. The 20-year-old Swede was the eighth-overall selection of Edmonton in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft but has struggled to find a legitimate role or any playing time for the Oilers. This could present a tantalizing piece for Arizona who would get a similarly built player on paper, who, like Ekman-Larsson, could be looking for a fresh start and a new opportunity.

Edmonton Oilers Wayne Gretzky Philip Broberg Ken Holland
Oilers’ defenseman Philip Broberg has yet to make his professional hockey debut in North America. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

Although the Oilers would be giving up a former first-round pick, they will be getting back a legitimate and proven NHL defenseman at a good cap hit (assuming Arizona retains salary in the deal). It is something worth exploring, especially since we have yet to see Broberg make any sort of push for a roster spot in Edmonton.

Bolstering the Defense

At the very least, the Oilers will at least circle back and see what sort of deal could be had considering they have some extra cap flexibility they may not have had when the initial discussions occurred. There is no doubt that Ekman-Larsson would help bolster a blueline that is lacking high-end depth and reliability. If the Oilers are looking to address their needs and build a serious Cup contender, then making a move for Ekman-Larsson makes sense even if it means seeing a high-end prospect in the organization or future picks go the other way.

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