Should the Boston Bruins pursue Oliver Ekman-Larsson?

Boston Bruins, Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports)
Boston Bruins, Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports) /

With the playoffs over and the Stanley Cup awarded, free agency is getting loser, and there will be more news around the Boston Bruins to talk about. There was recent news coming out of Vancouver, as the Vancouver Canucks chose to buy out defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson with four years left on his contract.

Ekman-Larsson has been rumored in trades to the Bruins before, and now he’s a free agent available for anyone to sign. With the Canucks paying him until 2031 despite freeing up almost $14 million in cap space for the next two years, he can sign for the league minimum and still do well. So this begs the question, should the Bruins pursue Oliver Ekman-Larsson?

The short answer is, well, no. But I’ll elaborate a little more than that. When the defenseman known as OEL was at his prime, he was a points-producing defenseman with the Arizona Coyotes, setting a career-high in points with 55 in 2015-2016, and scoring a career-high 23 goals the year prior.

The Boston Bruins should not pursue Oliver Ekman-Larsson

In 2018-2019, Ekman-Larsson had 14 goals and 30 assists, the last of his truly great seasons. That didn’t stop John Chayka and the Coyotes from extending him for eight years at $8.25 million annually with a full no-movement clause attached to it for all eight years.

OEL began to decline at a sharper rate following that extension. He posted 30 points in year one and 24 in year two. The Coyotes then decided to shop Ekman-Larsson, with him being traded to the Canucks just before the Kraken expansion draft along with Conor Garland in exchange for three draft picks, former Bruin Loui Eriksson, Jay Beagle, and Antoine Roussel.

You may remember the Bruins being well involved in those talks, and they were the other finalist along with the Canucks. That’s because they wanted Ekman-Larsson, and Ekman-Larsson would only waive his no-movement clause for the Canucks and Bruins.

They dodged a bullet by not acquiring him at that time. In the two seasons he’s been in Vancouver, Ekman-Larsson had 29 and 22 points respectively, hinging a lot on assists, as is the case with most defensemen.

That’s about all he did well. His play in transition and in his own zone, things that are important for a defenseman to be good at, have steadily declined in recent years, continuing to add to the case that Ekman-Larsson’s deal is one of the worst in hockey.

I mean, yeesh.

In addition to his poor play on the ice, signing Ekman-Larsson wouldn’t do anything to help the Bruins in a depth chart sense either. You could make the case that Anton Stralman was depth for the right side of the Bruins’ defense last season, despite his poor performances.

You can’t say the same about Ekman-Larsson. He’s a left-shot defenseman. The Bruins have four of those that are better than him, with Hampus Lindholm, Matt Grzelcyk, Derek Forbort, and Mike Reilly being those four. Jack Ahcan and Mason Lohrei are also intriguing options on the left side in Providence that can make an NHL impact without costing nearly as much as Ekman-Larsson.

So, while Ekman-Larsson would probably jump at the chance to sign with the Bruins given his apparent liking of the organization, Don Sweeney and company would be wise to steer clear of the veteran defenseman.

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He doesn’t bring anything to the table hockey-wise that you don’t already have, he would be an addition to the left side of the defense that you already have bolstered when you need all the cap space you can get, and he’s also not all that good at playing defense anymore. No, the Bruins should not pursue Oliver Ekman-Larsson.