Arizona Coyotes general manager Don Maloney has said he will not trade star defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson for a chance to draft projected No. 1 pick Auston Matthews should the Coyotes not win the draft lottery.
Maloney was speaking to about 150 fans at a forum on Saturday, when conversation turned to the prospect of moving his most valuable player, the 24-year-old Ekman-Larsson in order to move up and nab Matthews.
“That will never happen,” said Maloney, according to azcentral.com.
The thought of the Coyotes doing whatever it takes to land Matthews, who grew up in Arizona, makes some sense.
Matthews would give the Coyotes a franchise centre, and also a hugely marketable asset given his roots in the community. The team, while nearing a deal to share an arena with Arizona State University in a much more favourable location than the suburb of Glendale – where they currently play – hasn't always thrived financially.
President, CEO and co-owner of the Coyotes Anthony LeBlanc shot down any suggestion that his team would be willing to part with Ekman-Larsson, who's sixth in scoring among NHL defencemen this year with 20 goals and 31 assists in 69 games.
"I think I spit my coffee out," said LeBlanc. "Would we on the business side love having a kid who started playing hockey because he went to a Coyotes game? … Of course."
"(But) we’re not trading Oliver for a draft pick."
Not being willing to give up their No. 1 defenceman does not mean the Coyotes would be unable to make an enticing offer for the team that wins the draft lottery.
The Coyotes have young up-and-coming players in Max Domi and Anthony Duclair, while last year's third-overall pick Dylan Strome has put together another excellent season in the Ontario Hockey League, leading the Erie Otters with 111 points (37 goals, 74 assists) in 56 games.
There's also Christian Dvorak, who led the OHL in points per game after putting up 52 goals and 121 points in 59 games this season. Dvorak, 20, was drafted by Arizona in the second round, 58th overall, in 2014.