Coyotes trade Ekman-Larsson to Canucks as NHL trades heat up

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SECAUCUS, N.J. (AP) — The Arizona Coyotes pulled off a blockbuster trade in the hours leading up to the NHL draft, sending captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson and forward Conor Garland to the Vancouver Canucks for the No. 9 selection, a 2022 second-round pick, 2023 seventh-rounder and three veteran forwards.

It was the third major trade made before the first round began Friday night.

The St. Louis Blues also acquired high-scoring forward Pavel Buchnevich from the New York Rangers for Sammy Blais and a 2022 second-round pick. Earlier in the day, the Philadelphia Flyers traded the 14th pick and a 2023 second-rounder to the Buffalo Sabres for big defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen.

“He’s a player we’ve been looking at the last three years,” Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said of Ristolainen. "He can shoot the puck, he can skate, he’s big and strong.”

While the Flyers paid a hefty price for a sought-after player in Ristolainen who has one year left on his contract, the Canucks acquired a defenseman in Ekman-Larsson who's signed for six more years at a salary-cap hit of $8.25 million. Garland is a restricted free agent in need of a new deal, and Arizona had been shopping him and Ekman-Larsson for some time.

“(Ekman-Larsson) is a tremendous player and person, and we wish him and Conor the best of luck in the future,” Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong said. “We are very pleased to acquire the ninth overall draft choice in this year’s NHL draft along with Loui, Antoine and Jay."

Arizona is retaining a portion of Ekman-Larsson's salary and took on Antoine Roussel, Jay Beagle and Loui Eriksson — all set to be free agents after next season — to add another draft pick. The Coyotes forfeited their first-round pick this year, 11th overall, for testing players in violation of NHL combine policy.

After a handful of trades Thursday when the roster freeze was lifted, Philadelphia and Buffalo kicked off the movement Friday with the trade of Ristolainen, who said he “knew something might happen this offseason, this weekend.”

Not so much for Buchnevich, who was fourth in scoring for the Rangers and looked like a piece of their young core. But new president and general manager Chris Drury dealt the 26-year-old to St. Louis to add a second Stanley Cup champion in a week after trading for gritty forward Barclay Goodrow, who won back-to-back with Tampa Bay.

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AP Hockey Writer John Wawrow and AP Sports Writer Dan Gelston contributed to this report,

Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press

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