Maple Leafs should trade for Oliver Ekman-Larsson
Arizona Coyotes defenseman Ekman-Larsson is the perfect fit for Toronto, and here are a few reasons why:
Ekman-Larsson has two years left on his deal at a reasonable $5.5 million/year.
Ekman-Larsson is young (25), has seven years NHL experience, brings leadership and is a true No. 1 defenseman.
Ekman-Larsson doesn’t have a no-movement clause in his contract.
Market value for fellow defenseman and future free agentKevin Shattenkirk
will be around $7 million, and he will want a long-term deal, something the Leafs need to stay away from before they sign their young players.
Finding young defensemen in the NHL who are actually available is extremely tough unless you make a team an offer it can’t refuse. Much like the Ryan Johansen for Seth Jones deal, the trade has to make sense for both teams to be so bold.
If I’m the Leafs and I understand this unique win-now bubble, I offer the Coyotes this deal:
Mitch Marner OR William Nylander
2017 first-round pick
2018 first-round pick
If I’m Arizona, I have to be thinking about where I am in the rebuild process. It’s clear the Coyotes are sellers, seeing how they dealt Martin Hanzal at the deadline this year and collected a big return for his rental.
Ekman-Larsson has extremely high value right now with two years left on his deal at a reasonable price tag. He is one of the few bright spots on the Yotes, and it will be a tough decision to either part ways with OEL or continue to build around him.
I look at this deal and see I can get a 19-year-old productive forward who can play with Max Domi, Anthony DuClair, Christian Dvorak and Clayton Keller. You also will have an extra first-round pick for the next two years. Arizona GM John Chayka is a stats guy, and he knows that putting that much top talent on the ice will have to bear some positive results.
Honorable Mention: Sign Joe Thornton
Now an unrestricted free agent, San Jose forward “Jumbo” Joe Thornton is able to hit the market and sign with whatever team he desires. Coming off an ACL/MCL injury, Thornton isn’t going to give you speed, but he still remains one of the best passers, if not the best passer in the game. He is a big center who will win draws and work wonders on the powerplay.
The Leafs could benefit greatly from Thonrton’s services. Some teams will pass because of his recent injury, but the Leafs can take a chance on him. If Thornton is ready to move on from San Jose, there isn’t a better fit for him right now.
If you’re the Leafs, you have plenty of money and could probably throw him a two-year deal if he wants it at $6 million/year, similar to what he made last year.
This, combined with the Leafs possibly gunning on Ekman-Larsson, would make the Leafs a strong contender to be a Chicago Blackhawks-like franchise in the immediate future.