It looked like there was a chance of a ‘Big 3’ of defensemen hitting the NHL free agency market next summer with the contracts of Drew Doughty, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and Erik Karlsson expiring after next season. Something that was probably more of a pipe dream than anything.
Well, it looks like it’s down to two at best now, with Ekman-Larsson reportedly verbally committing to a 8-year contract extension worth more than $8 million per season, per TSN’s Darren Dreger.
Obviously nothing can be formally agreed upon until the extension window opens on July 1, but this is huge for the Coyotes. Not just the fact they retained what is probably their best player and one the best defensemen in the league but the fact he wants to stay in Arizona. The Coyotes are moving in a positive direction. Despite finishing last in the West, Arizona went 19-13-3 in its final 35 games. There’s a lot of really good, young talent and Antti Raanta was one of the NHL’s best goalies in the second half of the season. The Coyotes will get a chance to pick up another young stud with the fifth overall pick in next week’s draft.
So whatever Arizona is selling, Ekman-Larsson seems to be buying by signing an eight-year extension that would expire just shy of his 36th birthday. He’s had a rough past couple seasons, but has still averaged 40 points and turns 27 in July, so he’s right in the prime of his career. It should be noted that in that time period Ekman-Larsson has had to deal with the death of his mother, who died from cancer last spring.
It’s a good sign for the future of hockey in Arizona, a place I’ve always felt hockey has a lot of potential despite whatever prognostications of doom have been forecast by others over the years.