Canucks: Jim Benning has every reason to acquire Oliver Ekman-Larsson

Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

It looks like the Vancouver Canucks will lose several key players to free agency. GM Jim Benning now has every reason to trade for Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

The Vancouver Canucks have been discussing a trade for Arizona Coyotes captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson, but the clock is ticking.

Per TSN’s Darren Dreger, Kevin Epp, Ekman-Larsson’s agent, has given the Canucks and Boston Bruins (who are also in on the sweepstakes) a Friday deadline to complete a trade. Otherwise, Ekman-Larsson will stay with the Coyotes.

Given what’s transpired in the last 48 hours, it’s safe to say that Benning has every incentive to go after Ekman-Larsson now. The Canucks will likely have some cap space freed up now, and there is a gaping hole on the blue line that must be filled.

Earlier this week, Rick Dhaliwal of TSN 1040 and Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reported that forward Tyler Toffoli is set to enter the free agent market on Friday. Fan favourite and veteran blueliner Chris Tanev appears to be on the way out as well:

Finally, the Canucks decided not to give a qualifying offer to defenceman Troy Stecher, who is now also scheduled to hit the free agent market.

At this point, it’s hard to envision both Toffoli and Tanev coming back. Other teams will surely reach their asking prices. And if Stecher ends up signing elsewhere? It just gives Benning greater reason to make a deal for Ekman-Larsson.

Yes, Ekman-Larsson carries an expensive contract. He’s signed for seven more seasons with a cap hit of $8.25 million. But that’s going to be the market for top-pairing defencemen over the long run anyway. Quinn Hughes will be making more than that in short time.

Only Hughes and 2019 free agent signing Tyler Myers are in the long-term picture on Vancouver’s blue line. Tanev and/or Stecher could be gone in 24 hours. The contracts of Jordie Benn and Alexander Edler expire after next season.

The Canucks can comfortably build a defence around a rising superstar in Hughes, a reliable do-it-all workhorse and veteran in Ekman-Larsson and the experienced and physical Myers. Not to mention that Vancouver would now have two quality power play quarterbacks to work with.

Benning’s difficult salary cap situation is obviously a key reason why multiple players will be lost in free agency this year. But Brandon Sutter (one more year), Jay Beagle, Loui Eriksson and Antoine Roussel (two more years) are off the books soon. The cap space will gradually open up.

So assuming Benning loses both Tanev and Stecher in free agency, it only makes sense for him to try and close out a deal for Ekman-Larsson. The contract may be a problem in four or five years from now.

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But in the short term? Ekman-Larsson could be that final piece needed to help the Canucks in their Stanley Cup quest, and that’s why Benning needs to pull off the trade.