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NHL free agency rumblings: Latest on Ekman-Larsson, Markstrom, Krug

We are one day away from Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s deadline and still the Arizona Coyotes captain hasn’t been traded.

The 29-year-old defenceman wants to see a quick resolution to his situation and has said he won’t waive his no-movement clause for a deal to Vancouver or Boston beyond Friday. At this stage it appears the Canucks are the more interested buyer, and talks continue between them and the Coyotes.

The teams are believed to be grinding over which prospect or player is included in the deal.

As reported earlier this week, the Coyotes have asked for goaltender Thatcher Demko, which is a non-starter for Vancouver. There is also the issue of how much money Arizona may or may not take on as part of the trade package.

So hurdles remain as the clock ticks.

Ekman-Larsson feels he negotiated a $66-million, eight-year extension with Arizona in good faith back in 2018 and plans to stand behind the NMC included in his contract if these trade talks don’t bear fruit.

MARKSTROM’S MARKET

The Vancouver Canucks are still hoping to retain Jacob Markstrom even as suitors begin to form a queue to make their pitch to the pending free agent.

Markstrom is the top goaltender available in a crowded marketplace at the position and will almost certainly net a contract with an average value above the $5 million that Robin Lehner got last week from Las Vegas.

The Calgary Flames and Detroit Red Wings are believed to have interest. Despite some cap limitations, the Edmonton Oilers will likely come calling as well.

Vancouver doesn’t sound prepared to engage in a bidding war to retain Markstrom’s services – “We’re going to be prudent and smart,” general manager Jim Benning told Sportsnet’s Iain McIntyre – but it hasn’t given up hope of bringing back a player that’s blossomed during his seven years with the organization.

Even if Markstrom tests the open market on Friday, the door won’t be closed with the Canucks. It might even compel him to stay right where he is.

ACTIVE OILERS

Keep an eye on Edmonton when free agency opens: Ken Holland has to be judicious with his spending because of the salary cap ceiling, but he’ll likely have his fingers in a lot of different pies.

Among the team’s targets? A goaltender, a third-line centre and a defenceman to run the power play with news that Oscar Klefbom is likely facing an extended absence because of a lingering shoulder injury that will probably require surgery.

That’s put Tyson Barrie on the radar there.

As mentioned above, Markstrom could be a candidate in goal.

There’s even some talk that Taylor Hall would seriously consider a reunion with the Oilers, although it’s hard to imagine Edmonton being able to pull that off without shedding some salary in trades to make the finances fit.

Either way, the Oilers intend to be fairly active and they’ve already reached a deal to bring winger Jesse Puljujarvi back over from Finland.

CHASING TOREY

In a league where cap space is king, Steve Yzerman possesses more of it than virtually all of his peers.

He also has more available roster spots than NHL-ready prospects after an off-season where the Detroit Red Wings let Jonathan Ericsson, Trevor Daley and Jimmy Howard walk away in free agency, bought out Justin Abdelkader and didn’t tender qualifying offers to Madison Bowey, Christoffer Ehn and Brendan Perlini.

That’s led to increased chatter that the Red Wings are poised to take a run at free-agent defenceman Torey Krug when the market opens Friday.

There’s a natural fit: Krug was raised in a Detroit suburb and attended Michigan State. He’s also looking for some long-term security after being one of the NHL’s most productive blue-liners over the past seven seasons and the Red Wings have the means to sign the 29-year-old to the kind of contract he covets.

TRADE BRAKES

There’s been just one player-for-player trade during what was expected to be a busy week of transactions, and many believe the high number of non-tendered restricted free agents is largely to blame.

Why part with an asset when you can fill a hole without doing so?

Plenty of useful young players are set to become unrestricted free agents on Friday after not being QO’d before Wednesday night’s deadline. The list includes Anthony Duclair, Troy Stecher, Dominik Kahun, Lucas Wallmark, Andreas Athanasiou, Carter Verhaeghe, Mark Jankowski, Devin Shore and Nick Cousins, among others.

Under normal circumstances, most of them would not have been cut free. But with a flat salary cap and the potential for higher arbitration awards than teams might be comfortable with they’re now free to sign wherever they chose.

It’s created some sentiment that the trade market might pick up once everyone sees how the dust settles.

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