Oliver Ekman-Larsson reportedly agreeing to 8-year extension a great sign for Coyotes future

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.

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Defensemen: 16-20

16 – Niklas Hjalmarsson

Hjalmarsson is the game’s best defensive defenseman. Nobody in the league does a better job of taking out the opposing team’s best forward. He’ll be a great addition in Arizona and should allow Oliver Ekman-Larsson to open up his game.

17 – Cam Fowler

The Ducks have about six or seven defensemen right now that are 26 or younger and are absolute studs. It’s a toss-up between Fowler and Hampus Lindholm, but I’d go Fowler at this point. The 26-year-old took a big step forward last season, emerging as Anaheim’s No. 1 while playing nearly 25 minutes per game. His 39 points were one off the career-high he set as a rookie in 2010-11.

18 – P.K. Subban

He’s in the perfect situation right now in Nashville, making up a perfect tandem alongside Mattias Ekholm. That’s a pairing where you’re able to get the most out of both guys, where they really compliment each other perfectly. Subban is one of the best playmakers from the back end in the league and has an absolute rocket for a shot.

19 – Rasmus Ristolainen

The analytics crowd tends to give low marks to the Buffalo blueliner because of his poor numbers on possession, which I feel is more reflective on how the Sabres have used the Finish defenseman than it is on the type of player Ristolainen is. What I mean by that is Buffalo has preferred Ristolainen give up the blue line in order to use his size as an advantage in the defensive zone. If adopts a more aggressive style of play under Phil Housley, the results could force the 22-year-old right into the Norris discussion, a la Zdeno Chara in Boston with Claude Julien after a season of Dave Lewis. Ristolainen is that talented.

20 – Oliver Ekman-Larsson

A truly gifted offensive defenseman who in the two seasons prior to last season was tied with Brent Burns for the NHL lead with 44 goals. Ekman-Larsson plays big minutes and is one of the league’s top performers on the powerplay, with his 66 powerplay points over the last three seasons fifth in the league.

Canadiens Celebrate Home Opener No. 99

It’s the first big Tuesday night in the NHL, and one of the headliners will be the Montreal Canadiens opening up the Bell Centre against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the 99th opener for the Habs. It will also be the home debut for big ticket defenseman Shea Weber, acquired from Nashville over the summer.

Here’s the slate of games for Tuesday; Colorado at Washington, 7; Anaheim at New Jersey, 7; San Jose at N.Y. Islanders, 7; Pittsburgh at Montreal, 7:30; Florida at Tampa Bay, 7:30; Arizona at Ottawa, 7:30; Dallas at Nashville, 8; Los Angeles at Minnesota, 8; Philadelphia at Chicago, 8:30; Buffalo at Calgary, 9; Carolina at Edmonton, 9; St. Louis at Vancouver, 10.

Players to Watch

Colorado: Gabriel Landeskog; The Avs captain has nine points in seven games against the Captials, the second-highest output against a team that has been in the Eastern Conference the entirety of his career. He has 10 points in seven games against Ottawa.

Washington: Evgeny Kuznetsov; The Capitals pivot has yet to record a point through two games. Tuesday’s matchup against Colorado would seem like a setup for a breakout for Washington’s leading scorer last season. In two games against the Avalanche last year, he had a 1-3–4 line. Against 28 games against Western Conference opponents last season, he had 36 points.

Anaheim: Ryan Getzlaf; Has landed 17 shots but has just one goal, coming off a season in which he buried just 7.3 percent of his chances. They have to go in at some point, don’t they?

New Jersey: Kyle Palmieri; Had a 30-goal season in 2015-16, his first year in New Jersey following five seasons in Anaheim. The Ducks would gladly take him back.

San Jose: Brent Burns; He’s got six points in three games. Looks like a man on a mission.

N.Y. Islanders: Cal Clutterbuck; Three points through three games to begin the season.

Pittsburgh: Chris Kunitz; Passed Mike Bullard for 15th place on the Penguins all-time points list with his 361st career point on Monday night. Next up is Greg Malone, at 364. Within striking distance: Mark Recchi (385) and Ron Schock (404). Needs a few seasons for Mario Lemieux’s 1,723.

Montreal: Al Montoya; Carey Price still isn’t ready to return to the ice. Thankfully, Montoya has been pretty good, with 65 saves on 69 shots through two games.

Florida: Jon Marchessault; The 26-year-old is filling in nicely for the injured Jonathan Huberdeau, with two goals and four points through two games.

Tampa Bay: Alex Killorn; He has 11 points in 16 games against the Panthers, the most points against any opponent for the 27-year-old forward.

Arizona: Oliver Ekman-Larsson; Played a yeoman-like 31:46 in the Coyotes opener.

Ottawa: Erik Karlsson; Facing Ekman-Larsson, he makes up half of the showdown between go-to Swedish defensemen.

Dallas: Kari Lehtonen; Will get his first start of the season after making 12 saves on 13 shots in relief of Antti Niemi on Saturday.

Nashville: Mike Fisher; The newly-elected captain has played 19:23 while scoring two points, taking a team-high 44 faceoffs, winning 26.

Los Angeles: Tyler Toffoli; Has put eight shots on net, but just one goal to show for it.

Minnesota: Zach Parise; His next goal will be No. 300 for his career. He ranks 18th among active players.

Philadelphia: Claude Giroux; The only player left over from the Flyers 2010 Stanley Cup run who remains on the Philly varsity.

Chicago: Richard Panik; His four goals in three games are two off the pace he totaled in 30 games for the Hawks.

Buffalo: Ryan O’Reilly; Has 40 points in 55 games against the two Alberta franchises, coming off a monstrous four-point performance against Edmonton on Sunday.

Calgary: Johnny Gaudreau; No goals on nine shots, he’s snakebit.

Carolina: Sebastian Aho; The Finnish phenom has points in each of his first two NHL games.

Edmonton: Cam Talbot; The Oilers netminder has stopped just 86 of the 99 shots he’s faced.

St. Louis: Jake Allen; Needs a shutout to tie Brent Johnson for fifth on the Blues all-time shutout list. A shutout after that matches the 13-shutout output by Roman Turek, who played 121 games from 1999-2001. Lurking in the distance was Glenn Hall, whose 16 shutouts stood as a club record for 42 years until Jaroslav Halak recorded his 17th of 20 shutouts he had in a Blues uniform in October 2013. Brian Elliot, who is the franchise leader at 25, became the standard bearer in March 2015.

Vancouver: Alex Edler; The defenseman is averaging 25:20 through two games. His 24:27 ice-time per game last season was a career-high.

#HatTrickChallenge

Kyle Okposo: The big winger had a great debut on a Sunday, with a goal and assist in the Sabres 6-2 win over Edmonton. He puts up three against a Flames defense corps that looks suspect yet again.

Game of the Night

Pittsburgh at Montreal: It’s the defending Stanley Cup champions visiting the franchise with the most. You can count on the bleu, blanc et rogue reminding them of that at some point during the night. Opening night at the Bell Centre is always a spectacle.

Lock to Win

St. Louis: The Blues jump out to a 4-0 start against a Vancouver team who is out to a 2-0 start, but hasn’t faced a team as good as St. Louis and will be playing its backup goaltender.

Links

Craig Custance looks into Doug Armstrong’s penchant for scooping up first-round picks that didn’t work out for other franchises.

Shea Weber set to introduce himself to the Montreal faithful.

Zach Parise, closing in on his 300th career goal, touches upon his unique relationship with Wild assistant Scott Stevens. Parise’s early days in New Jersey (he was drafted by the Devils with the 17th pick of the 2003 draft, played there until 2012) intersected with the final days of Stevens’ years with the Devils, where he played 13 of his 22 seasons in his Hall of Fame career.

Blues forward Jaden Schwartz, originally expected to miss a month, could return earlier than initially expected. Matt Murray could be close to returning for the Penguins.

With Ryan Miller unavailable, the Canucks have called upon University of British Columbia netminder Matt Hewitt as an emergency backup for Tuesday’s game against St. Louis.

The Avalanche feed off the energy from new coach Jared Bednar and captain Gabriel Landeskog.