The free agent market for NHL defensemen got really interesting at the start of the season when Los Angeles Kings star defender Drew Doughty stated that he would seek the best price he could, even if it meant testing the free agency and leaving California. He added to his shocking statement by saying he could keep in touch with Ottawa Senators captain Erik Karlsson, who is also slated to become a coveted free agent in the summer of 2019, to make sure they can get the most money possible.
“I know I’m going to talk to Karlsson back and forth, kind of see what money he’s looking for. I’ll kind of look at what money I’m looking for,” Doughty had said to The Athletic. “I don’t know if he’s going to re-sign with Ottawa, I don’t know if I’ll re-sign with L.A. You just never know what’s going to happen.”
It sure brought an interesting twist to the free agent market and talks on contract extensions, and maybe wonder if the same could be assumed of star defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson with the Arizona Coyotes. OEL is also slated to become an unrestricted free agent in July 2019, and could gather loads of attention from the Coyotes and other teams looking to land a top-quality defender as he could sign one of the biggest deals in the league.
However, OEL is not like Doughty or Karlsson. On Thursday, Ekman-Larsson finally spoke out on his free-agent plans, and fans across the NHL will be surprised to what he had to say. Sportsnet's Iain MacIntyre revealed OEL's point of view on the controversial subject on Sportsnet:
"Asked about the Doughty Plan this week, Arizona Coyotes’ Ekman-Larsson said: "It’s just money. It’s not going to make you happier. It might make your life a little bit easier but it’s not going to make you happier. I feel if you’re around good people, that’s what makes you happy. I feel like I have that here. This is where I want to be."
While OEL could manage to land a hefty contract - WITH a Cup contender - there are new priorities in his life since the passing of his mother last year. He is not worried that fans won't consider him as good as Doughty or Karlsson - though he is - he is focused on what is best for him and his family. For example, the Coyotes signed his younger brother, Kevin, to a minor-league contract with the Tucson Roadrunners.
"I look at it a little bit different now," OEL said. "You try to have fun and enjoy every chance you get to step on the ice and play in the best league in the world. I think that’s something good in all of this: You start to realize how lucky you are to have a chance to play here and do the thing you love.
"It’s kind of nice for me with the last year I had – my mom passing away – just have this year to get back on my feet and try to have fun again. That helps me with the position we’re in as a team right now."
Ekman Larsson's six-year, $33-million contract expires after next season and though he has made it clear he wants to stay in Arizona, general manager John Chayka could still move his best blue liner, despite the fact he has said numerous times he’d like to re-sign Ekman-Larsson.
"I feel like I could take the easy way out, but that’s not my personality," Ekman-Larsson said. "I want to be the guy who turns it around and really be a difference-maker."