By Allan Muir
Some teams choose to play hard ball with their own free agents, looking to take advantage of the new CBA to control the costs associated with a player's second contract.
And some teams can't be bothered to mess around.
Count the Phoenix Coyotes among the latter group. With franchise defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson headed to restricted free agency this summer, the team made a bold move to lock up his services with a six-year extension Friday night.
The Coyotes didn't release terms, but
TSN's Darren Dreger put it at $33 million, for an annual hit of $5.5 million. That's a pretty nice upgrade over the $900,000 he earned in each of his first three years in the league and puts OEL in line behind Drew Doughty ($7 million) and Erik Karlsson ($6.5 million) as the top earners among young defenders.
It's also a very different way of doing business than how Montreal handled P.K. Subban and Colorado bungled its dealings with Ryan O'Reilly over the past couple of months. That aggressive approach probably won't win Phoenix GM Don Maloney many friends, but it is one that makes perfect sense for this franchise. This isn't a pay-for-potential deal. Ekman-Larsson isn't just one of the game's best young defensemen...he's one of the best, period. This is value for now and moving forward. Wherever this team winds up playing, he's the core for the next six years.
Could the Coyotes have pushed for a cheaper "bridge" contract? Maybe, but doing it this way allowed Maloney to set up a deal he was willing to live with. Ask Colorado GM Greg Sherman some time about the pros and cons of allowing some other team's offer sheet to control your payroll. Maloney wasn't going to let that happen to him.