Oliver Ekman-Larsson could be traded by the Arizona Coyotes, but they do not feel pressure to do so before the NHL free agent market opens at noon ET on Friday, Oct. 9.
The 29-year-old defenseman, who has been Arizona captain the past two seasons, has a full no-movement clause in his contract, but his agent, Kevin Epp, told TSN on Tuesday that Ekman-Larsson has given the Coyotes a Friday deadline to trade him. Reportedly, the two teams Ekman-Larsson would consider a trade to are the Boston Bruins or Vancouver Canucks.
Arizona general manager Bill Armstrong, speaking on the NHL @TheRink podcast Thursday, said the Coyotes are not going to make a panic move to meet the deadline, especially if the offers they receive are not worth what they believe Ekman-Larsson’s value to be.
“When you deal with clubs on any player, they’re not maybe as high as offers as you’d like to come back or assets that you’d like to gain, so there’s a patience,” Armstrong said. “Our ownership has done a great job just saying, ‘Hey, listen, we’re going to hold the [NHL] salary cap where it is and we’re not going to panic here, you’re going to go in there and do your work.’ We’ve always operated, I guess, from strength in the simple fact that we have some opportunity to move assets, but we’re in no panic to do it.”
Armstrong, who was hired Sept. 17, said he has an open line of communication with Ekman-Larsson, who scored 30 points (nine goals, 21 assists) in 66 regular-season games and four points (one goal, three assists) in nine postseason games this season.
“Oliver and I have had some good discussions,” Armstrong said. “We’ve talked about the scenarios and I basically went back to him and just said, ‘Hey, listen, just hang in there. I know you’re stressed about it. Let’s get through this free agency, get on the other side of it, we’ll reach out and stay in touch.’ I said, ‘If there is something that’s bothering you, you can always reach out to me, let’s just calm it now and we’ll see where it moves to.'”
Epp told TSN that the Coyotes approached Ekman-Larsson about a trade, but he said the defenseman’s preference is to remain with Arizona.
Ekman-Larsson signed an eight-year, $66 million contract ($8.25 million average annual value) on July 1, 2018, when John Chayka was the GM. The NHL salary cap will remain $81.5 million for next season, which is targeted to begin Jan. 1, 2021.
“I have a great respect for the player,” Armstrong said. “I know him all the way back since he’s been 17 years old. He’s a great player. To me, he’s a player that has the ability and the talent to win the Norris [Trophy]. He’s our captain. He plays 23 minutes a night. I guess it’s probably a little bit awkward in the sense that I like him as a player but at the same time the club is also exploring, and that’s why I was hired, to explore every asset that we possibly could gain. … My goal here is to put all the assets on the board and explore every situation that could help this organization moving forward.”
Armstrong said he is not worried about the relationship between Ekman-Larsson and the Coyotes if he doesn’t get traded.
“He’s a great person that you can always reach out to and have a conversation with,” Armstrong said. “So it’s easy on that front that if it doesn’t work out, and obviously he’s going to come back in the door, him and I can sit down and continue to work on the relationship and get him in the right spot. But we’ll just deal with that afterwards. Right now we’ve got some work to do in free agency and obviously to look at some other deals to be done.”
Armstrong said left wing Taylor Hall will become an unrestricted free agent Friday, reiterating what he said following the 2020 NHL Draft on Wednesday.
Hall scored 52 points (16 goals, 36 assists) in 65 games with the Coyotes and New Jersey Devils this season, including 27 points (10 goals, 17 assists) in 35 games after he was traded to Arizona on Dec. 16, 2019. He scored six points (two goals, four assists) in nine postseason games.
“Taylor is a really good player, and I know the organization gave up a lot to bring him in (three prospects and two draft picks). It’s just one of those situations right now for us to move forward I think it was a mutual parting,” Armstrong said. “It’s probably better for him to test the free agent market and for us to go in another direction, to manage what we have and add a few pieces to make us a better team.”