Philadelphia Must Go All-in for OEL

Speaking on TSN Radio this morning, Phoenix Coyotes GM Don Maloney dropped the following bombshell regarding the future of the team:

He was quick to add this disclaimer, however:

“Oliver Ekman-Larsson is a player that we would certainly be very, very reluctant to part with,” Maloney said, “but as far as I’m concerned when you’re sitting with our record…then everybody is up for grabs.”

Maloney left the door cracked open, and Ron Hextall needs to be on his way to Arizona with a sledgehammer to break it down and acquire Ekman-Larsson.

But Why Would Arizona Trade Him?

(Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)
(Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

Oliver Ekman-Larsson is universally regarded as one of the best young defensemen in the NHL. He’s a silky smooth skater with tremendous decision making ability and skills at both ends of the ice. He’s only 23, but has been playing 25 minutes a night for the past three seasons. He’s played at a consistent 40 point pace at the same time. He finished 7th and 14th in Norris Trophy voting the past two seasons.

So, again, why is Maloney dangling him out there?

Arizona’s scoring woes have been a well documented problem the past few years. Their offense has been the 5th worst this year, and have been in the bottom half of the league since 2011-12. In order to address an area of weakness (offense), Maloney is willing to sacrifice an area of strength (defense).

The Coyotes have a number of cheap, high-ceiling defensive prospects in Brandon Gormley and Connor Murphy. However, they wouldn’t bring back the impact offensive player Maloney needs to jump-start his offense. He could trade Keith Yandle, but his value is not as high as it would be since he’ll be an unrestricted free agent after 2015-16.

With the money Arizona could save by trading Ekman-Larsson’s $5.5M cap hit, they could re-sign Yandle and give their offense a huge face-lift. Another thing to consider is that while OEL’s cap hit remains the same for the next 4 years, the actual dollar amount Arizona owes him increases to $6, $6, $6.5, and $7M. For a team with an internal cap like Arizona’s, that’s a lot.

Philadelphia & Arizona: Perfect Trading Partners

Don Maloney
Don Maloney

It’s no secret the Flyers are in need of help on defense. Specifically, they need defensemen that can skate, defend well, and play a strong transition game. Well, that’s Oliver Ekman-Larsson to a T.

Philadelphia has a plethora of forwards and needs defensemen. Arizona has a plethora of defensemen and needs forwards. It would cost a whole lot to acquire Ekman-Larsson, but it very well may be worth the price. At the draft, the Flyers made a huge push to acquire the first overall pick and select Aaron Ekblad.

The asking price from Florida was Wayne Simmonds, Vinny Lecavalier, 2014 1st (17th overall), and 2015 1st. Ron Hextall balked because he wanted the 2015 1st to be conditional. Maloney would likely demand something very similar to move his prized defenseman.

What Would the Flyers Offer?

If I’m Ron Hextall, I would phone Maloney and say the only untouchables are Giroux, Voracek, and Mason. Giroux and Voracek are self-explanatory, and Mason has been a brick wall since being acquired. The Coyotes are stuck with Mike Smith and his contract, so they likely couldn’t afford Mason anyway.

Phoenix Coyote Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Photo by Andy Martin Jr
Oliver Ekman-Larsson

 

That leaves pieces like Wayne Simmonds, Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn, Matt Read, Scott Laughton, any of the big 4 defensive prospects, and Philadelphia’s 1st in 2015 (likely in the 5-12 range) as the centerpieces of a possible trade.

I obviously wouldn’t trade all of them, and Arizona would be more interested in some than others. The defensive prospects, while valuable, aren’t what Maloney wants. It will be a tough pill to swallow to deal a couple of those guys, but 23 year old #1 defensemen that are cost controlled at a reasonable number never become available on the market.