Vancouver Acquires Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland From Arizona In Draft Day Blockbuster

The second of three major draft day trades took place between the Vancouver Canucks and Arizona Coyotes, involving some very significant assets on both ends. Canucks General Manager Jim Benning is facing an immense amount of pressure heading into the eighth year of his tenure in Vancouver, as the team had an incredibly disappointing season in 2020-21. There had been speculation for weeks leading up to the NHL draft that Vancouver’s 9th overall selection could be in play in exchange for salary cap relief and or players that could help the Canucks make a playoff push in 2021-22. Both concepts were accomplished in this trade, as Vancouver acquired veteran defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson and the RFA rights to Conor Garland form the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for the final year of Louie Eriksson’s contract, the final year of Jay Beagle’s contract, the final year of Antoine Roussel’s contract, the 9th overall pick in the 2021 NHL draft, a 2022 2nd round pick, and a 2023 7th round pick.

Starting with Vancouver’s side, Oliver Ekman-Larsson has been one of the Coyotes franchise cornerstones since he was drafted in 6th overall in the 2009 NHL draft. Former Coyotes GM John Chayka extended OEL’s contract on July 1st, 2018 with an eight-year, sixty-six million dollar deal ($8.25m AAV), and 990k will be retained by the team until the conclusion of the 2026-27 season due to this trade. In 2020-21, OEL played in forty-six games with Arizona, scoring three goals with twenty-four assists for twenty-four points averaging over twenty minutes of ice time per game. This led to an atrocious -11.33 individual AB score, which was the worst of any Coyotes player this season. In fact, it would be the second-lowest score of any Canucks player. Only Quinn Hughes’ -13.86 was worse. These sub ten AB individual AB scores are not uncommon for OEL, as this is his fourth time in his eleven year career registering below -10. Also, OEL has not registered an individually positive AB score since 2012-13, as his streak of eight consecutive negative scores is one of the longest negative streaks of any active NHL player today. It also doesn’t help that the Canucks have to pay OEL $7.26 million until he’s thirty-five years old.

All this being said, we believe Conor Garland is the real prize for Vancouver here. Four days after this trade was completed, Jim Benning signed Garland to a five-year, $24.75 million dollar contract ($4.95 million AAV). We believe this is masterful work by Benning and his team, as Garland will be a tremendous addition to their top-six forward group. In his three year career, Garland’s numbers on bad Arizona Coyotes teams have been impressive. Garland registered a +3.19 individual AB score on the Coyotes this year, which was a career-high by nearly two points. He has consistently been one of Arizona’s better players, as he was second behind only Barrett Hayton in AB this season, and seventh in 2018-19 and 2019-20. If we put Garland’s score on the 2020-21 Vancouver Canucks, he would have the 2nd highest score among their group as well, trailing only Elias Pettersson’s 3.28. In addition to the stellar AB performances, Garland’s production was outstanding last season, as he scored twelve goals and registered twenty-seven assists for thirty-nine points in forty-nine games (0.795 PPG), all while averaging around eighteen minutes a game. There’s reason to believe that  a top six of a healthy and signed Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, Conor Garland, Nils Hoglander, and JT Miller this season could be exactly what the Canucks need to make a playoff push. They will certainly be a team we will keep an eye on moving forward.

The Arizona Coyotes did extremely well in this deal in our opinion. Obviously the most valuable asset in this deal was the 9th overall pick, which they used to select Dylan Guenther. Guenther instantly becomes the Coyotes best prospect, as the eighteen year old was praised by many to be one of the most effective goal scorers of the 2021 draft class. In his time with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League, Dylan Guenther played in seventy total games between 2019-20 and 2020-21. In those seventy games, he scored thirty-eight goals, along with forty-five assists for eighty-three points, with only twenty-four total penalty minutes registered in those two seasons combined. Along with Guenther, the Coyotes will take on Jay Beagle, Louie Eriksson, and Antoine Roussel’s remaining salary, as each player will likely be in their lineup next season as well. However, at the conclusion of this 2021-22 season, the Coyotes will have a boatload of cap space, as Phil Kessel’s $6.8 million, Louie Eriksson’s $6 million, Anton Stralman’s $5.5 million, Dmitrij Jaskin’s $3.2 million, Antoine Roussel’s $3 million, Jay Beagle’s $3 million, Johan Larsson’s $1.4 million, Ilya Lyubushkin’s $1.35 million, and Ryan Dzingel’s $1.1 million all come off the books. That’s a whopping $31.35 million in cap space to work with, in addition to the 9 million they currently have as of today. The 2022 NHL draft has a chance to be franchise altering for the Coyotes as well, as they have two first round picks (their own and Colorado’s from the Darcy Kuemper trade), FIVE second round picks (NYI’s in the Andrew Ladd deal, PHI’s in the Shayne Gostisbehere deal, San Jose’s in the Adin Hill trade, Vancouver’s in this trade, and their own). Seven picks in the top 64 in what could be one of the more loaded drafts in recent memory when they entered the offseason with two is outstanding work by Bill Armstrong and the Coyotes rebuild appears to be off to a strong start. There will be much more to come when it comes to Arizona and Vancouver, as we believe this trade was one of the more interesting ones made so far this offseason. Thank you for reading as always.

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