Why the Bruins should trade for Conor Garland, and how they could get him
Conor Garland, a Scituate, MA native and product of the Junior Bruins was arguably Arizona's best forward last year. He was third on the Coyotes in points with 39 in 49 games (just four points out of first on the team, and with more points per game than both players above him), while contributing just about any way that you can. He is also just 25 years old.
Louis Pannone of the Hockey Writers wrote, "Garland does it all. He creates offense. He wins puck battles along the boards. He draws penalties. He scores goals in a variety of ways. He forechecks. He backchecks. He blocks shots. He generates takeaways. He wins races to loose pucks. He’ll even go out and take the body."
Furthermore, Nick Goss of NBC wrote, "[Garland's] 27 5-on-5 points led the Coyotes and would've tied Patrice Bergeron for the third-most on the Bruins [last season]."
Another bonus about Garland is that he can play either left or right wing. If the Bruins manage to bring back Taylor Hall and David Krejci, Garland would be a perfect fit alongside them on Boston's second line. While at 5'10", 165lbs he is smaller and slightly less physical than Craig Smith, he can do a lot of the grinding work that Smith did on that second line last season while also providing more skill.
He could also slot in on the Bruins third line where he would really stand out, and completely rejuvenate a group that was not playing their best last season. Either way, he'd instantly become a very important piece of Boston's forward group. In addition, a long term deal, which is likely what Garland is looking for, would be a nice stabilizer for a Bruins future that is very much in question.
Despite all of his positive qualities, and being a heart and soul player for Arizona, the Coyotes have shown virtually no interest in resigning him. It should be their main priority, but Frank Servalli of TSN recently reported that the Coyotes haven't even responded to contract proposals made by Garland's agent on May 20th. That is not a good sign from a team that has not exactly had the best management or made the best decisions in recent years.
There is no reason the Bruins should be looking to trade straight up for Oliver Ekman-Larson, but a trade with Arizona could very likely end up with OEL in it. He is by no means the same player that he was a few years ago, and still has six years left on his brutal $8.25 million per year contract. It truly is one of the worst deals in the NHL.
There is no doubt that Arizona will be shopping Ekman-Larson. They did last summer when Boston was one of just two teams, with the Vancouver Canucks, that OEL waived his no move clause for. This year, he has even less value, as he is a year older, a year worse, and still boasts that massive contract.
A trade between Boston and Arizona regarding Ekman-Larson would almost definitely involve the Bruins getting Garland. It would also require the Coyotes to keep at least some of OEL's contract. Most likely it would look something like:
Oliver Ekman-Larson ($1.25 per year retained)
Conor Garland (RFA rights)
Boston trades: Jake DeBrusk
2nd round pick
In all honesty, swinging a deal like this would be a massive risk for Boston as they would be counting on a resurgence from Ekman-Larson. If that didn't happen, they would be stuck with a horrendous long term contract, as even with Arizona retaining $1.25, Boston would still be paying him $7 million per year for the next six years. Even if OEL was able to turn his career back around it's still an overpay, and without a turnaround it's a franchise altering move, and not in a good way.
The Bruins have quite a few players to resign this year, and will have to extend Charlie McAvoy next offseason, so for a trade involving OEL to really be a success for Boston, they would need Arizona to retain at least $2 million. Given the fact that last year the Coyotes wouldn't budge over $1.25 that is unlikely.
Because of that, a straight up deal for Garland would most likely be the way to go. That could look something like:
1st round pick
The only other way that Boston could acquire Garland would be to simply sign him. That's unlikely though as because he is a restricted free agent, the Bruins would most likely have to give up a first and a third round pick to sign him.
Overall, Garland would be a great addition to this Boston team, and help them make at least one more run at the Cup. We already know that GM Don Sweeney loves acquiring Massachusetts natives, so don't count out the possibility that the Bruins make an effort to bring Garland home.