The narrative that Jim Benning loves draft picks, dies today.
In a blockbuster move, the Vancouver Canucks struck a deal with the Arizona Coyotes for Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Conor Garland, in exchange for Loui Eriksson, Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel, the 9th overall pick in 2021, a second-round pick in 2022, and a seventh-round pick in 2023. Arizona retained $990,000 of Ekman-Larsson’s contract throughout the rest of this deal, making the defender’s cap hit in Vancouver $7.26 million.
This is the second year in a row that the Canucks won’t pick in the first round (barring another trade). It’s the first time in team history that the Canucks won’t have a first-round pick for two straight years.
For the sake of not overreacting one way or the other, this has to be one of the strangest deals in Canucks history. In a nutshell, fans would normally be ecstatic that the team moved on from not just Jay Beagle, not just Antoine Roussel BUT Loui Eriksson as well.
However, they’ve traded three guys who had one year left, on their deal, for a guy who has six years left on a contract that could be yet another anchor.
Again, the underlying numbers don’t bode well for the 29-year-old defenceman.
Although the Canucks got rid of three bad contracts, giving away a top-10 pick, where you likely would have landed at least a top-six player or a top-four defenceman, ALONG with taking on another anchor of a contract is hard to swallow.
The Canucks in this deal really are banking on a hope and a prayer that Ekman-Larsson is rejuvenated in a different market, in a different system with a different head coach. Although he had six-straight seasons with 10+ goals (and he was on pace for 10 in ‘19-20), his offensive output dropped last year, and his defensive impact was subpar relative to his teammates.
Some other positives about Ekman-Larsson. He was dangerous on their power play last season, posting 7.69 points-per-60. Although his offence dried up at even-strength last season, he did shoot at a lowly 3.6% last season.
On defence, he was undoubtedly too permissive. His most common partners though, were Ilya Lyubushkin and an aging Jason Demers.
There are reasons for hope that he could rebound, but this deal comes with a massive amount of risk for the Canucks.
That being said, the other positive in this deal for the Canucks is the acquisition of Conor Garland.
Garland is a restricted free agent who could probably qualify as one of the most underrated players in hockey. He was the Coyotes leader in points-per-60 at even-strength last season, with a first-line rate of 2.37 points-per-60.
However, Garland won’t play in the NHL at a discount rate anymore. He’s probably worth a cap hit of around $3.5 million to $4 million on his next deal.
The Canucks are undoubtedly a better team today. Their top-nine looks a lot better with Garland in the mix. Horvat arguably has the two most talented wingers to line up with so far in his NHL career, with Garland and Nils Hoglander expected to flank the Canucks captain on the second line.
Ekman-Larsson is also better than Alex Edler...but boy does it hurt to take on that cap hit, along with giving up three draft picks.