Oliver Ekman-Larsson has set a Friday deadline through his agent for a trade from the Arizona Coyotes, reportedly to either the Boston Bruins or Vancouver Canucks.
“We think the best option for a trade is before free agency,” Kevin Epp told TSN on Tuesday. “If no deal by Friday, Oliver is staying in Arizona.”
The defenseman, who has a full no-movement clause as part of an eight-year, $66 million contract ($8.25 million average annual value) he signed July 1, 2018, informed the Coyotes he would accept a trade only to the Bruins or Canucks, TSN reported.
“And typically the week prior to free agency is probably the most flexibility each organization has throughout the course of the season,” Epp told TSN 1040 in Vancouver on Tuesday. “This is when the flexibility is best, and that’s kind of the thought process on putting a deadline. If you don’t have a deadline on making a deal or making a decision on things, things just linger, and I think people always forget that there’s a person in this process and it’s not fun to pick up the phone every day and have articles written about you and some teams’ players saying or media saying ‘You know this guy is not a fit, this guy is a fit, we should trade this for him, we should trade that, and he should go here,’ or what’s going on.
“I think the longer your name stays out there in the media and just lingers throughout, it doesn’t help the process of trying to actually get a deal done.”
Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong, speaking after the first round of the NHL Draft on Tuesday, said he understands the approach Ekman-Larsson’s agent is taking.
“You know when you have the no-trade clause, you can do what you want,” Armstrong. said. “They can set deadlines too, and there’s nothing I could do to control that. That’s just something that they wanted to get accomplished, and I guess they did on their end.
“Oliver Ekman-Larsson is a great person. He’s our captain. It’s a situation where his agent is doing the best for him what he can and he thinks is right, and we’re doing what’s best for our organization. It’s one of those things that will work itself out in the end.”
Epp, who said he’s optimistic a trade will be made before NHL free agency begins at noon ET on Oct. 9, said the Coyotes approached Ekman-Larsson first about a trade and that his preference is to remain with Arizona.
When Ekman-Larsson signed his contract in 2018, John Chayka was Coyotes general manager and Andrew Barroway was their owner. Epp said that a change in ownership to Alex Meruelo in 2019 and the hiring of Armstrong as GM on Sept. 17 likely changed Arizona’s commitment to Ekman-Larsson.
“It’s one of those situations where this year I think everybody’s been affected by COVID,” Epp said, “and I think the ownership group there just purchased the team last season so it was a tough year financially for everybody, and as you’re seeing around the NHL right now there’s teams that have players on multiyear contracts that are looking to find ways to reduce their expenses. … So I think it’s always been a situation where Oliver signed in Arizona to be there for his career. He had the opportunity prior to free agency two seasons ago to go to the market and at that time he made the decision he wanted to remain in Arizona, and things haven’t changed from that perspective.
“It’s always different when a new owner comes in and they want to do things the way they want to do it and they also have a new [general] manager and I think things just change over time when you have different management teams coming in and different ownership. It wasn’t their decision to keep when they signed him to that contract. It was under different ownership and different management at the time.”
Ekman-Larsson, the Coyotes captain the past two seasons, scored 30 points (nine goals, 21 assists) in 66 regular-season games this season, his fewest points since he scored 11 (one goal, 10 assists) in 48 games as a rookie in 2010-11. The 29-year-old scored four points (one goal, three assists) in nine postseason games this season for Arizona, which lost in five games to the Colorado Avalanche in the best-of-7 Western Conference First Round after defeating the Nashville Predators in four games in the best-of-5 Stanley Cup Qualifiers.
Selected by the Coyotes with the No. 6 pick in the 2009 NHL Draft, Ekman-Larsson has scored 364 points (125 goals, 239 assists) in 723 regular-season games and eight points (two goals, six assists) in 25 postseason games.
NHL.com independent correspondent Alan Robinson contributed to this report