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What Oliver Ekman-Larsson could potentially bring to the Bruins

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A look what a trade for OEL could mean for Boston.

Vancouver Canucks v Phoenix Coyotes Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images

For a little while now, there have been rumors circulating that the Bruins could be interested in bringing the Arizona Coyotes’ captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson to Boston via trade this offseason.

Yesterday, those rumors picked up steam, as we covered in this post.

We’ve covered the logistics of how this deal may be difficult to pull off, especially with Ekman-Larsson’s AAV and the years left on his deal.

But since it’s the offseason, let’s do some speculating!

What could Ekman-Larsson bring to the Boston Bruins?

A defenseman to quarterback the PP

With every day that passes, it looks more and more likely that we have seen the last of Torey Krug on the point of Boston’s power play. As a result, bringing in a guy like Ekman-Larsson, who’s more than capable of leading an NHL power play, could make sense.

Ekman-Larsson has put up 147 power play points (including 53 goals) in his 10-year career on an often inept power play in Arizona.

Ekman-Larsson’s smooth skating, vision, and creativity with the puck make him a threat not just on the PP, but at all times when on the ice.

That being said, a possible red flag for management to consider before making this move is that the fact that Ekman-Larsson’s power play TOI saw a pretty considerable drop this season in Arizona; consequently, so did his PP production.

Is it possible that Arizona has seen something in his game that made them cut his power play time?

Leadership

As sad as it may sound, the Bruins will most likely lose significant leadership in the coming years as Bruin mainstays like Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, and David Krejci see their careers come to a close.

You’d hope that by that time, younger players like Charlie McAvoy will have stepped up and taken over the helm. But if not, they’ll need veterans accustomed to filling this role.

Ekman-Larsson does has a lot to offer in this department, as he has been the captain of the Coyotes since 2017-2018 and wore the ‘C’ for Team Sweden at the 2019 World Championships.

He plays a lot of minutes

In particular, he could play a many of the minutes that Zdeno Chara has consistently played since becoming a Bruin. If Chara decides to return next season, many feel that it’s probably time to see his minutes cut on a nightly basis.

It seems that Bruce Cassidy may agree as well, as we started to see his minutes reduced against the Lightning: in Games 2, 3, and 4, Chara played well under 20 minutes.

Ekman-Larsson could presumably take some of these minutes next season, as he averaged over 23 minutes a game, playing the power play, penalty kill, and even strength.

Subpar defensive skills?

For all that Ekman-Larsson could bring offensively to the Bruins, it’s quite possible that his defense could actually be a detriment to Boston.

If you take a look at at Ekman-Larsson’s isolated impact heat map for even-strength defense from HockeyViz, which takes into account things like teammates, zone starts and competition, we can see that Ekman-Larsson actually struggles at times in the d-zone:

Ekman-Larsson’s isolated impact heat map (even-strength defense)
HockeyViz.com

What we can gather from this heat map is that it essentially tells us that opponents’ shots are 8% more dangerous than the NHL average while Ekman-Larsson is on the ice.

Perhaps more evidence of Ekman-Larsson’s subpar defensive play at 5 on 5 is that he’s been on the ice for 592 goals against in his career versus 521 goals for, or that he’s a -92 during that time.

Granted, as a top defenseman on his team (a team that was really bad for a pretty long time too), he plays against the opposition’s best players every night. Still, you have to worry about these numbers.

A boatload of AAV

Any predictions on whether Ekman-Larsson’s play may help or hinder the Bruins are simply guesswork at this point.

However, one thing that is certain is the fact that Ekman-Larsson has a massive cap hit for any team willing to trade for him. As mentioned earlier, Ekman-Larsson is currently signed for the next 7 years at a staggering $8,250,000 million AAV.

Even though Ekman-Larsson would only be 35 at the end of this deal, taking on a salary like this would definitely limit the Bruins’ ability to make moves for the foreseeable future.

With players like Charlie McAvoy and David Pastrnak needing new contracts during this period, it may be inadvisable to pay such money to a defenseman who will be well into his 30’s when his deal expires.

So what happens next?

While Ekman-Larsson could certainly help to fill the void left by Krug (and possibly Chara), you have to think the cap hit Ekman-Larsson possesses is enough for the Bruins to pass on this potential deal.

In addition, you can’t expect the Coyotes to give away their captain for nothing. A deal for a player of this caliber will also demand a big return of players, prospects, and/or draft picks.

The Bruins do not have a lot of young depth in their system right now, so moving key assets for Ekman-Larsson would only set them back further.

As we mentioned yesterday, unless Arizona is willing to eat some of Ekman-Larsson’s salary, this really should be a hard-pass for Sweeney & Co.