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Is Oliver Ekman-Larsson Soon To Be An Oiler?

The health of Oscar Klefbom may drive whether or not the Oilers go for a deal within their division.

Colorado Avalanche v Arizona Coyotes - Game Three
Ekman-Larsson’s name has popped up quite a bit as of late.
Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images

Did not plan on having this discussion prior to the draft, but here we are.

The Oilers need a few things this offseason, namely scoring wingers, a 3C and a goaltender to either back up or platoon with Mikko Koskinen.

I didn’t have them going in on Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

You could have knocked me over with a feather after reading this. Not only are the Oilers at least thinking about Oliver Ekman-Larsson, the reasoning behind it is the end of a 1-2 punch. If the Oilers are without Klefbom for any length of time, the club will no doubt need to try and replace him. Let’s have a look at some prospective lines.

Oscar Klefbom (4.167MM x3) - Adam Larsson (4.17MM x1)

Darnell Nurse (5.6MM x2) - Ethan Bear (RFA)

Kris Russell (4MM x1) - Matt Benning (RFA)

A few thoughts:

  • The talk around the water cooler is that Oscar Klefbom may need surgery that would keep him out “long term” per Friedman. The Oilers really can’t afford to have Klefbom out long term (they have tried, and it’s not surprisingly affected them negatively), so acquiring a replacement would probably be pretty high on Ken Holland’s to-do list.
  • We’ve talked about Darnell Nurse’s strengths and limitations. Knowing what we know, let’s keep him at 2LD for the time, I don’t think you’d find too many arguing to make him play 25 minutes on the top line.
  • Any deal that involves getting OEL would no doubt need a bad contract going towards Arizona. Ekman-Larsson’s cap hit is 8.25MM over the next seven years, which would require at least significant deal to go out while Klefbom is on IR. Might I suggest the Russell deal? It’s the only one on the club that’s got a low dollar amount (1.5MM in actual dollars) with a higher AAV (4MM). Teams don’t normally go for that sort of thing, but the Coyotes will likely be closer to the floor than the ceiling. Kris Russell helps them do that.
  • If Klefbom (4.167) is on IR, that frees up his cap hit for the duration of his IR stay. Add a 4MM Kris Russell on top of that, and that frees up enough cap space to fit in one Oliver Ekman-Larsson. At least, it will as long as Oscar Klefbom is on IR. Once Klefbom returns, the Oilers will need to shed additional cap, which could come by dealing Klefbom himself or Darnell Nurse (5.6MM).
  • I’m glad I’m not Ken Holland in this situation. I feel like if I’m this far into negotiations, then there’s a hard time pulling back. A first rounder is a big chip, sending a “developing player” would lead me to believe they’re talking Bouchard or Broberg. That’s a lot of potatoes, and it would set wheels in motion for the next several years on the Oiler blue line. If the Oilers sent this year’s first round selection to Arizona, Edmonton’s first selection wouldn’t be until the third round. That’s if they don’t ship that pick to Calgary to complete the Lucic deal.

What would the Oilers defence look like if they acquired Ekman-Larsson? You’d probably see Caleb Jones quite a bit more and Matt Benning would likely be back, though I’m not sure if the OIlers can get him for the price they’d like. Ekman-Larsson is a capable top pairing defenceman and would fit perfectly atop the Oiler blue line, but the two possible prohibitors would be acquisition cost and the overall length of the deal.

In short: the Oilers have the assets to make this deal happen. If Klefbom is going to be out long term, they’ll have to do something other than put Darnell Nurse up top. Acquisition cost and the length of Ekman-Larsson’s deal may make this deal a little hard to swallow for Holland and the Oilers, and he may have to point to free agency in order to make ends meet on the blue line.