The Boston Bruins could lose top-four defenseman Torey Krug in NHL free agency when the market opens Oct. 9. And if Krug does depart, how will the Bruins replace him?
The B's could give more ice time to Matt Grzelcyk and Jeremy Lauzon, but neither player is ready for a consistent top-four role at this time. The most effective way to make up for Krug's offensive production and ice time is to trade for a top-four defenseman.
One intriguing trade target is Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Here's what TSN's Darren Dreger said about interest in Ekman-Larsson during Tuesday's edition of "Insider Trading."
"There has been significant trade interest expressed in the Coyotes captain and the Oilers are among the teams with some interest. It’s in the preliminary phases and, again, given the cap hit that Ekman-Larsson brings back, this is not going to be an easy transaction for Ken Holland and the Oilers.
"I would put Boston in that group of teams with interest as well. But also keep in mind Ekman-Larsson has trade protection so he is, to some degree, going to manage this process."
Ekman-Larsson is entering the second season of an eight-year, $66 million contract extension that carries a salary cap hit of $8.25 million, per CapFriendly. David Krejci's $7.25 million cap hit is the highest on the Bruins, who have done well to sign their stars -- Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, etc. -- to team-friendly deals in recent seasons. Ekman-Larsson also has a no-movement clause in his contract, as Dreger alluded to above.
This isn't the first time in September that the Bruins have been linked to Ekman-Larsson. Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman wrote on Sept. 17 that the Bruins, Calgary Flames and Oilers all "have checked in on" Ekman-Larrson. Friedman also noted "there undoubtedly are more" teams that have done the same.
That's far from surprising given the talent, experience and leadership qualities Ekman-Larsson brings to the ice. Ekman-Larsson is an all-around defenseman who skates really well, has impressive offensive talent and features heavily on the Coyotes' special teams units.
He's averaged 42.4 points and 15.4 goals per season over the last seven years. He's someone who likely wouldn't have much trouble replicating (or even exceeding) Krug's scoring and power play production.
Ekman-Larsson also is 29 years old, so he's still in his prime. His durability has been solid, too, as he's never missed more than seven games due to injury in a single season since becoming a full-time Coyotes player.
There aren't too many downsides to acquiring Ekman-Larsson, although the asking price is sure to be high given his talent, age, and the Coyotes' need to maximize the return on one of their top assets.