It looks like Oliver Ekman-Larsson is ready to invest in the desert. The Arizona Coyotes and their star defenceman are reportedly discussing a contract that would keep Ekman-Larsson with the team for the next eight seasons.
— Arizona Sports (@AZSports) May 16, 2018
This comes as somewhat of a surprise because Ekman-Larsson’s name has appeared in multiple trade rumours over the past year. Given the fact his contract is set to expire on July 1, 2019, it seemed possible that the rebuilding Coyotes might look to move him for draft picks and prospects that could help the team as they move towards their contention window. Despite that, general manager John Chayka is adamant he was never exploring an Ekman-Larsson trade.
“I’ve been on the record numerous times about the subject and have been very clear,” Chayka said during the season. “I haven’t had a single conversation about Oliver that has lasted more than five seconds.”
Originally drafted with the sixth overall pick in the 2009 draft, Ekman-Larsson quickly emerged as a top defender in the NHL. He made his NHL debut in 2011-12 and, in 2013, signed a six-year contract worth $5,500,000 annually. Though his last two seasons have seen a decline in production, Ekman-Larsson recorded at least 20 goals in both 2014-15 and 2015-16, solidifying him as one of the NHL’s top offensive defencemen.
Another reason this news is a little surprising is the convoluted future of the Coyotes in Arizona. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman threatened to relocate the Coyotes if they didn’t have a new stadium and the team is only scheduled to continue playing in its current home in Glendale, Arizona for one more season before the end of the lease. There isn’t yet a concrete plan as to where the Coyotes will play beyond the 2018-19 season.
Ekman-Larsson’s agent Kevin Epp said that him and his client aren’t concerned about the future of the Coyotes in Arizona.
“Everybody feels good about the way the organization is going right now and the direction of ownership and the direction of the team and its success,” Epp said.Regardless, on the ice, there's no doubt that keeping Ekman-Larsson is a must for the Coyotes. The soon-to-be 27-year-old is easily the best defenceman on the team's roster and is a key part of the team's future success.