Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong revisits Ekman-Larsson trade: ‘Turning point in our rebuild’

Jan 19, 2024, 11:47 AM | Updated: 12:32 pm

Arizona Coyotes v Vancouver Canucks...

Oliver Ekman-Larsson #23 formerly of the Vancouver Canucks checks Jack McBain # 22 of the Arizona Coyotes along the end boards during the first period at Rogers Arena on April 14, 2022in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)

(Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)

Before the Coyotes faced the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday evening, Arizona general manager Bill Armstrong recounted a draft-day trade between the two side 2.5 years ago that changed the Coyotes going forward.

Armstrong was in his first offseason in charge and dealt longtime staple Oliver Ekman-Larsson — an 11-year veteran with a “C” on his jersey — and the emerging Conor Garland for three draft picks and three players, including a first-rounder.

He called that day the turning point in Arizona’s rebuild, one that is on the upswing entering the second half of this season.

Arizona, which did not have a first-round pick in 2021 before the trade for violating NHL combine testing policies, picked Dylan Guenther with the No. 9 overall pick acquired in the deal. The Coyotes also shedded most of Ekman-Larsson’s contract, as he was entering the third of an eight-year, $66 million deal.

“It changed our culture. We’d wanted to move OEL out and relieve some money at the time. It was an interesting period of time for us because we were looking to flip that switch and start the process of acquiring new players and drafting players and we didn’t have any picks at the time,” Armstrong told Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo on Thursday.

“When that deal came into light, and it was a pretty complicated deal, there’s a lot of pieces moving in that deal, it was like the sunshine came through. We ended up picking Guenther at No. 9. And we got another second-rounder in there to go get (Jack) McBain eventually. So that was that was a huge day for us. We also got J.J. Moser out of that (2021) draft and Josh Doan. That was a big turning point for us in our organization, and it freed up some money so we could do some creative things in grabbing more players. That’s probably been the turning point in our rebuild with that trade.”

The Coyotes traded for McBain during the 2021-22 season for a second-rounder acquired in the deal.

When the two sides took each other on Thursday night, McBain was on Arizona’s first line and Guenther on the third line. Garland remains in Vancouver, but Ekman-Larsson was bought out last summer and now plays for the Florida Panthers.

The Coyotes had a 57-point season after the trade for a last-place finish but improved to 70 points in 2022-23 and have 45 points so far this year after Thursday’s loss. That’s with 39 games to play.

“It’s been really exciting for our group to kind of come together in a small period of time and still have that work ethic about playing hard. We’re getting there. We’re not a perfect team. But if you come watch us, you can see the future,” Armstrong said.

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