NHL trade rumors involving Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson are back, which isn't a huge surprise with the 2021 draft about a month away.
The rumor mill is heating up, with Buffalo Sabres superstar center Jack Eichel the most exciting player who could potentially be moved during the offseason.
The upcoming group of free agent defensemen is not amazing. Outside of Dougie Hamilton -- and to a lesser extent, Tyson Barrie -- there aren't any players contending teams should pursue for their top pairing.
So, if teams are looking for a top-four defenseman, Ekman-Larsson is an interesting player to consider pursuing via trade. But in the case of the Boston Bruins, it's not a fit.
First, here's the latest report on Ekman-Larsson, via Craig Morgan AZ Coyotes Insider. He writes that "the Coyotes intend to explore trade options for captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson again this summer, sources have confirmed. This time around, Ekman-Larsson appears to be more open to the possibility."
Bruins fans probably remember back in October when there were reports of Ekman-Larsson being willing to waive his no-movement clause only to join Boston or the Vancouver Canucks. The Coyotes ultimately held on to their captain for the 2020-21 campaign, and a late-season collapse cost them a playoff spot.
Why should the Bruins pass on Ekman-Larsson?
The biggest reason is his contract. It has six years remaining with a $8.25 million salary cap hit. That would be the largest cap hit on the Bruins. It's also a lot of money for a 29-year-old player whose performance has already declined. As Morgan explained in-depth in his column, the Coyotes star did not play well this season.
If the Bruins acquired all or most of Ekman-Larsson's cap hit, that would leave less money to re-sign two of the B's own free agents this summer -- Brandon Carlo (RFA) and Mike Reilly (UFA). The Bruins should only be paying $8 million or more per season for a defenseman if his name is Charlie McAvoy. He was one of the three-best defensemen in the league this season despite not being a Norris Trophy finalist, and his contract expires after next season. A large, long-term deal should go to McAvoy, not OEL. The 23-year-old McAvoy is much younger and much better.
The Bruins do need a left-sided defenseman for one of their top two pairings. So, on paper, Ekman-Larsson would seem like a fit. But the Coyotes captain's huge contract and disappointing performance this season are two of several reasons why the B's should stay clear of him this offseason.
The best trade target among defensemen for the Bruins to pursue is Nashville Predators star Mattias Ekholm, not Ekman-Larsson.