Oliver Ekman-Larsson is sure to be one of the most popular names in NHL trade rumors as the 2020 draft and free agency approach.
What will the Coyotes be looking for if they trade Ekman-Larrson? Here's what TSN's Darren Dreger laid out in the context of the Edmonton Oilers:
What’s the farm? Ariz will want a 1st and likely one of the Oilers young, developing blueliners. Edmonton would also likely need the Coyotes to take another contract back to offset the OEL cap hit. As we reported yesterday, there have been discussions. Unclear if there’s a fit. https://t.co/JNuFv5vesZ— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) September 30, 2020
Let's replace these Oilers assets with their Bruins comparables.
First, the Bruins don't have a 2020 first-round draft pick. They traded it to the Anaheim Ducks in February to acquire Ondrej Kase and dump David Backes' contract. So, the B's would need to move a future first-rounder if the Coyotes were adamant about acquiring one.
The most promising "young, developing blueliner" in Boston's system is Urho Vaakanainen, who was the Bruins' first-round pick in 2017. Matt Grzelcyk and Jeremy Lauzon are lesser examples. It would be tough to give up on Vaakanainen so early, but Ekman-Larsson is a really good player.
The Bruins don't have a ton of mid-tier salaries they could involve in an Ekman-Larsson trade to help offset his high salary cap hit of $8.25 million.
Charlie Coyle and Charlie McAvoy are the only B's players with cap hits between $3 million and $6 million, per CapFriendly. It's hard to imagine the B's parting with either player. Coyle is a valuable forward and recently signed an extension, and McAvoy is the No. 1 defenseman the team should build around long term. Two other decent-sized cap hits are Ondrej Kase at $2.6 million and John Moore at $2.75 million.
Is pursuing Taylor Hall in free agency a smart move for Bruins?
What's the case for acquiring Ekman-Larsson? The Bruins' window to win the Stanley Cup is right now, and they might only get one or maybe two more seasons to compete for a championship with their current core.
Therefore, it does make some sense to risk a couple future assets to acquire Ekman-Larsson for a short-term run at the Cup.
If the Bruins lose Torey Krug in free agency, it's unlikely they would replace him with another top-four defenseman via free agency. This year's class of UFA defensemen is pretty weak outside the top guys available, and Boston cannot afford to overpay for a middle-tier veteran in a panic move to fill Krug's role.
A trade is the best way to find another top-four defenseman capable of providing consistent scoring production, strong special teams play and 20-plus minutes per game against quality competition. Ekman-Larsson brings all of those skills to the ice, in addition to his impressive leadership abilities.
The case against a move for Ekman-Larsson is his salary cap hit of $8.25 million -- a pretty hefty price tag -- and he still has seven more seasons on his contract. The deal won't expire until he's 35 years old.
Giving up another first-round pick when the B's didn't have one in 2018 and don't in 2020 also is not an ideal scenario for a team that could be rebuilding/retooling when the current core's run is over.
There are pros and cons to each scenario, but if the Bruins plan on being a playoff contender over the next three or so years, a trade for Ekman-Larsson would improve their chances of winning a Stanley Cup.