What it would cost the Canucks to buy out Ekman-Larsson's contract

Jan 18 2023, 7:51 pm

It was one of the most shortsighted moves in Vancouver Canucks history.

The Canucks decision to acquire Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland for the ninth overall pick in 2021, a second-round pick, and three salary dumps was a terrible decision. There’s no other way to look at it.

Garland has regressed since the trade and his scoring is down this season. The player the Coyotes drafted with the ninth overall pick, Dylan Guenther, was recently a hero for Canada at the World Juniors.

And, he’s already scoring at the exact same rate as Garland (0.5 points per game) as a 19-year-old in the NHL.

That’s without even mentioning the elephant in the room – which is Ekman-Larsson and his albatross of a contract.

Canucks president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford mentioned in his press conference on Monday that if the Canucks can’t find a way to clear up cap space this summer, they will buy out players.

Among buyout candidates on the Canucks, Ekman-Larsson tops the list.

What an Ekman-Larsson buyout looks like for Canucks

In a word: expensive.

But, based on how he’s playing, it may be the logical thing to do.

After this season, Ekman-Larsson has four years left on the eight-year deal he originally signed with the Coyotes.

The way NHL contract buyouts work, two-thirds of the original salary are charged under the salary cap for all players older than 26 years old. The cap hit of that reduced contract is then spread out for double the length remaining on the contract.

According to CapFriendly, here’s what a buyout would look like for Ekman-Larsson.

Ekman-Larsson buyout Canucks


If the Canucks were to actually buy out Ekman-Larsson, they’d actually get some major relief next season ($7.11M). That’s a big deal considering the projections for the NHL salary cap.

They would save $4.91M in 2024-25, and $2.49M in 2025-26 and 2026-27. A buyout would cost the team $2.12M annually in dead cap money for four seasons, beginning in 2027-28. The reason these savings differ from the totals above is because the Canucks are only paying $7.26 million of Ekman-Larsson’s $8.25 million annual salary, which was part of their deal with the Coyotes.

Next season, the cap is expected to rise by only $1 million, to $83.5 million. However, reports suggest that the cap could rise by $8 million over the following two seasons, pushing the cap up to $92 million for the 2025-26 season.

That’s meaningful for the Canucks, because the most pain they’ll feel if they do buy out Ekman-Larsson is from the years 2025 to 2027, when they’ll be paying the defenceman upwards of $4.7 million to not play for the team.

But based on his true on-ice value right now, the Canucks would still be coming out on top.

The Athletic’s analytics model pegs Ekman-Larsson’s market value at just $100,000.

That means his true market value, according to the model, is -$7.16 million.

Ekman-Larsson Canucks


While a buyout is expensive, it arguably costs the Canucks more in terms of their on-ice performance by having Ekman-Larsson play a major role in the lineup.

Based on ice time, the 31-year-old is being played like a top pair defenceman. He also boasts some of the worst defensive metrics in the NHL.

That’s a dangerously bad combination, unless you’re purposely trying to lose.

Could the Canucks consider other buyouts?

Unfortunately, the Canucks probably aren’t going to improve as long as Ekman-Larsson and Tyler Myers are playing major minutes for this team.

Here’s another thing that’s unfortunate. The remaining salary on Myers’ contract is essentially buyout-proof.

The Canucks were in the same pickle with Loui Eriksson, but Myers’ contract beyond this season is mostly paid in the form of a signing bonus.

While NHL teams can reduce the cap hit of a contract by 33% with a buyout, that doesn’t apply to signing bonuses.

Myers has one-year remaining on his $6 million contract after this season. Five million of that is paid as a signing bonus.

If the Canucks were to buy him out, they’d still have to pay him $5.33 million not to play for the team next season.

Although he’s been bad (The Athletic pegged his market value at -$800,000) it’s hard to see the Canucks using a buyout on Myers.

Prior to his season-ending injury, another buyout candidate would have been Tanner Pearson.

Injury aside, this likely would have been a tough sell in the dressing room. Among regular skaters, Pearson is now the fourth-longest tenured Canuck, behind only Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser, and Elias Pettersson.

Quinn Hughes clearly respects him enough to call out the Canucks medical staff publicly. Bo Horvat also mentioned in this video that he usually sits with Pearson on the team flights.

But, Rutherford did trade Pearson once, so a buyout wouldn’t have seemed farfetched prior to his injury.

If the Canucks did buy out Pearson, the Canucks would save $1.83 million on the cap next season, while owing the winger another $916,667 in 2024-25.

Pearson has one year left on his $3.25 million contract after this season.

Trevor BeggsTrevor Beggs

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