NHL Rumor Mill – November 21, 2020
The latest on Oliver Ekman-Larsson and an update on the Capitals in today’s NHL rumor mill.
ARIZONA REPUBLIC: Jose M. Romero reports Coyotes captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson has returned to Arizona and hopes to join a group of his teammates on Monday working out at Gila River Arena. He maintains he’s “really glad” he’s a Coyote, which is why he signed his eight-year contract with the club. However, the 29-year-old defenseman acknowledged it’s been a difficult offseason after he was part of trade talks between the Coyotes and the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks.
Ekman-Larsson has a full no-movement clause but only agreed to waive it for the Bruins and Canucks. The Coyotes’ efforts to trade him fell through when a deal couldn’t be reached with either club before his self-imposed deadline on Oct. 9.
The long-time Coyotes blueliner said he understood this was a business decision. He denied any suggestion of tension with new general manager Bill Armstrong and doesn’t expect any strain going forward with their relationship.
AZCOYOTESINSIDER: Craig Morgan reports Ekman-Larsson explained why he choose Boston and Vancouver. He said the Bruins had an interest in him before he signed his current contract. He also spent a lot of time in Boston when he played in Portland, Maine during the 2012-13 lockout. His Swedish friends enjoyed playing and living in Vancouver plus his agent lives there. He also believes the Canucks have a promising young team.
Asked if he envisioned the Coyotes approaching him again about a trade, Ekman-Larsson left that up to Armstrong. He maintains he’s happy in Arizona but would deal with that issue if it came up again. He repeated he has no issue with what recently went down but expects at some point he’ll sit down with management and talk it through. Ekman-Larsson defended Armstrong, pointing out he arrived at a tough time for the club and had a job to do.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A deal couldn’t be reached sending Ekman-Larsson to Boston or Vancouver because Armstrong understandably set a high asking price. It’s also believed the Coyotes weren’t willing to absorb part of the blueliner’s $8.25 million annual salary-cap hit. Perhaps the Bruins or Canucks would’ve taken on his full cap hit during a normal offseason, especially if the salary cap rose to between $84 million and $88 million as projected before the pandemic.
Ekman-Larsson’s name could resurface in the rumor mill if the Coyotes struggle during the coming season or if ownership wants to shed more salary. However, his no-movement clause will continue to give him full control over the situation. His annual average value through 2026-27 will also make him very difficult to move, especially if the Coyotes remain reluctant to pick up part of it to facilitate a trade.
NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: J.J. Regan recently examined the Capitals’ options to bring in a third-line winger. He expects Daniel Sprong is the strongest candidate if they look to promote from within.
If the Capitals look to external options, their limited cap space (less than $1.5 million) means they could afford two players at barely over the league’s minimum salary. If they can free up some cap room, free agents such as Conor Sheary, Andreas Athanasiou and Melker Karlsson could be realistic possibilities.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Regan believes the Capitals could move a defenseman, such as Nick Jensen, to a club with salary-cap space (such as Detroit or New Jersey) to free up room to add via free agency. The Wings need blueline depth but they could also squeeze the Capitals to include a sweetener.