The Philadelphia Flyers are trying to reshape, rebuild, and retool their team. While there are several spots they could work on, they are focusing their efforts right now on their defense. Daniel Briere got things kicked off by trading away Ivan Provorov. There are also rumors that Tony DeAngelo is being shopped around. They are hoping to give rising young stars like Ronnie Attard and Cam York more of an opportunity to showcase their skills, but a veteran like Oliver Ekman-Larsson might help steady the ship.
The Vancouver Canucks have just bought out the contract of blueliner Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who had four years left on an eight-year deal that he previously signed with the Arizona Coyotes. He spent the last two years in Vancouver after the Canucks traded for him to bolster their defensive corps and help bring them back to the playoffs. Fun fact: it didn’t work, and the Canucks have been a complete mess since.
Despite having loads of talent, the Canucks as a team never gelled together and now Vancouver is selling off assets. By releasing Ekman-Larsson, they are saving over $7 million in cap funds that they will likely use in an attempt to extend superstar center Elias Pettersson.
Once upon a time, Oliver Ekman-Larsson was regarded as one of the premier offensive defensemen in the NHL. He had two seasons where he posted 20 goals for the Coyotes, and was traded with Conor Garland in a huge blockbuster trade with Vancouver two years ago. But, the last time he scored over 10 goals was in 2018-19. In two seasons with the Canucks, he has scored just seven goals and tallied 44 assists. This past season, he had a horrific -24 plus-minus rating. Maybe he didn’t fit the defensive scheme there. Maybe, like Provy, he just didn’t pair up well with others. Maybe, due to the fact that he is turning 32 soon, he’s lost a step.
The Flyers are trying to get younger, but it’s not everyday an elite defender, or in this case an elite has-been, becomes available. If he is willing to take $3 or $4 million and learn to be happy playing as a second or third-pair defender instead of trying to reprise his role as a number one, maybe he could be of some value to a team that will be sporting a younger squad of defenders. Perhaps he could fill in as mentor like Justin Braun had this past year.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson may not be what he once was, But on a one-year “prove it” deal, he’d have a lot to offer a team in transition. Plus, it could be a way for him to play into a bigger contract next season and/or become a great trade piece at the trade deadline next year. For these reasons, the Flyers should look into him and see if he fits any future plans they have.