The Philadelphia Flyers need to add a defenseman this offseason and they should search far and wide to find one. A name that was loosely linked to the Flyers cropped up again on Saturday night: Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
Last offseason, Ekman-Larsson was on the market but limited his options to the Boston Bruins or Vancouver Canucks with his no-movement clause. This offseason will be handled differently, however.
Elliotte Friedman reported on Saturday night’s Headlines segment that the Coyotes will explore the market and bring a deal to Ekman-Larsson for his approval.
While Ekman-Larsson will still be able to veto any trades, this opens up other teams to get into the mix. The Flyers could very well be one of those teams.
In March, Friedman reported that the Flyers had interest in Ekman-Larsson last offseason:
“Months-old rumour I heard this week: Philadelphia poked around Oliver Ekman-Larsson last summer, but a move obviously didn’t happen, as his choices were Boston and Vancouver.”
Chuck Fletcher, Flyers should keep poking around on Oliver Ekman-Larsson
If Chuck Fletcher and the Flyers poked around Ekman-Larsson last summer after a good defensive season, you have to think the interest will be there now as well. The defense was arguably the Flyers’ biggest issue last season along with goaltending, which go hand-in-hand at times. Adding someone with veteran leadership like the Coyotes captain could help the Flyers’ up-and-coming back end.
Ekman-Larsson averaged 20 minutes or more per game since his first full season in 2011-12. In fact, this past season was a career-low 20:58 of ice time per game. He had reached at least the 23-minute mark from the 2012-13 season to the 2019-20 season. The miles on his skates could be having an impact. The once 23-goal scorer had just three goals (and 24 points) in 46 games last season. On the other hand, a change of scenery always has the possibility to work wonders for talented players. He’d be a great get for the Flyers if he can return to his mid-2010s self in the top four.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson will turn 30 in July and still has some term left on his contract. He has an $8.25 million cap hit through the end of the 2026-27 season. That shouldn’t scare the Flyers off, however. Seth Jones (26, 27 in October) and Dougie Hamilton (28) are only a few years younger than OEL and will demand similar –– if not more expensive –– contracts.
How would Oliver Ekman-Larsson fit with Flyers?
What should cause the Flyers pause, though, is that Ekman-Larsson is a left-handed defenseman. Those two names above (Jones and Hamilton) are both right-handed and should be higher up the Flyers’ target list. Ryan Ellis is another right-handed option, with the left-handed Mattias Ekholm also a possible target in Nashville.
The Flyers hope Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim can be the one-two punch on the left side of the defense. Ekman-Larsson would force Sanheim to the right side, or perhaps out of town in a trade –– quite possibly for OEL.
It’s also worth noting that Flyers assistant general manager Brent Flahr scouted the Coyotes back in March. He couldn’t have been doing any pre-scouting for games since the NHL only played in divisions this season, so he was likely looking at a few players and possibly talking shop with the Coyotes front office. He could have had his eyes on OEL or a depth option in Jason Demers and Alex Goligoski, both of which are free agents this summer. Jakob Chychrun, despite his Philadelphia ties, would be a pipe dream.
Ekman-Larsson to the Flyers isn’t likely to happen, but it can’t hurt for Chuck Fletcher and Co. to poke around on him again. They need to keep all their options open this offseason and be aggressive enough to land one of their top targets. Those top targets should still be guys like Hamilton, Ellis, Ekholm –– and perhaps even Jones –– over Ekman-Larsson.
Photo: Heather Barry Images