Arizona Coyotes GM John Chayka has held firm whenever asked about his team’s interest in trading star defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. “I’ve been on the record numerous times about the subject and have been very clear,” Chayka said back in November. “I haven’t had a single conversation about Oliver that has lasted more than five seconds.”
Still, with the Coyotes on the outside of the playoff picture for a 6th consecutive season and with Ekman-Larsson’s contract set to expire in the summer of 2019, trade winds continue to swirl in the Arizona desert. The man they call OEL is set to hit unrestricted free-agency for the first time in his career and will command absolute top dollar. He may not be Erik Karlsson or Drew Doughty, but he’s in the next tier of elite-level defenseman and someone is bound to pay a hefty price tag for his services. If he wants to leave Arizona, might it make sense for Chayka and the Coyotes to trade his contract now so that they can maximize their return?
In his latest article for The Ottawa Sun, columnist Bruce Garrioch believes that the team is already receiving calls and offers on OEL, with the Toronto Maple Leafs, New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers leading the pack.
It’s believed the Toronto Maple Leafs are among the teams that have shown more than a passing interest in Ekman-Larsson. You can put the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers in that group, too, but league sources said Saturday the asking price was extremely high.
So, what is the asking price? According to Garrioch, “not only do the Coyotes want two high-end players”… “they’re also asking for a first-round pick.” Ouch… that’s three big pieces for, admittedly one huge returning piece… but still, that’s a hefty price to pay. There’s no real harm in asking though and because OEL’s contract is up until two summers from now, they can afford to take their time and demand top return.
But, the real question the Coyotes need to ask themselves is “will OEL’s value go up or down between now and his trade?” With rumors and speculation comes heightened criticism. The 26-year-old blue liner is already a -37 on a bad team in Arizona this year, will the pressure of a trade and the constant media chatter that comes along with it affect his game next season? The Coyotes are playing with fire here.
Johnson wants out
In other NHL trade news, Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson has reportedly requested a trade. The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline broke the news on Friday, after it was revealed that the team has held off any contract talks with the pending UFA.
Most in hockey know the awful story of how Johnson was taken advantage of by his parents, who squandered his money with poor investment. The 31-year-old has been forced to sue his parents in an attempt to regain control of finances, but he’s still reliant on another big money contract this summer to turn the ship around.
The immediate frontrunners in a Johnson sign and trade appear to be the New York Islanders, Montreal Canadiens and the aforementioned Toronto Maple Leafs.
Sit tight hockey fans, there could be some serious movement ahead of this year’s February 26th trade deadline.