Anyone can draft a high pick and keep him in town for the duration of his youth. The NHL has a terrible system (for players, but not necessary for fans) where players have almost no negotiating power until they are 25, at the minimum.
Oliver Ekman Larsson is the the best player in the history of the Arizona Coyotes. But he had to play there. They drafted him sixth overall in 2009, and now he's about to turn 27.
For the entire time he's been a Coyote, the team has been in turmoil - rumours of moving, little stability, multiple ownership changes and, usually, a terrible team.
Only once in eight seasons have the Coyotes made the Playoffs since Ekman-Larsson came into the league. For all intents and purposes, he just had his sixth 40 point season in a row. He's a possession driving, puck moving, superstar, and he's a great defender.
He is easily one of the top ten defenseman in the NHL. Probably top five.
Some will scoff at that, but consider not just what Ekman-Larsson has done, but who he's done it with. The Coyotes have made the playoffs just once, but OEL has a positive Corsi / possession rating for his career.
Since he's come into the league, he's the seventh highest goal scoring defenseman, with 45. He's 19th in points, but considering he's never been on a high scoring team, or had a superstar forward to help him rack up assists, that's impressive.
The biggest scorers OEL has teamed up with are Antoine Vermette, Martin Hanzal, Mikeal Boedker and Radim Vbrata.
In a bigger market, on a better team, Ekman-Larsson would already have a Norris Trophy.
I reiterate: He is the best player the Coyotes have ever had.
Recently, the ownership problems have been solved. Ever since Andrew Barroway took full control, the soap opera has ended. Ice Arizona left, and with them, Don Maloney, and Dave Tippett.
Barroway hired John Chayka, who has put together a team which is the best kept secret in the National Hockey League. They've got a great blue line, an allstar goalie and a ton of forward talent and potential.
Now that they've signed their franchise player to what amounts to a career long contract, they've done what small market teams usually fail to do: keep their homegrown talent for longer than is mandated by the league.
I don't think you can exaggerate how big of a deal this is for the Coyotes. It makes them a big deal in the NHL. A probable Hall of Fame player just committed his entire career to this team. It also is a huge move for John Chayka, a GM who has made several impressive trades and who still doesn't get the respect he has earned from a media who acts protectionist against any team or person who tries to do something different.
The Coyotes are a team on the rise, and by signing Ekman-Larsson to this contract, they've made themselves relevant in the NHL. They have many tradable assets, they have cap room, all their draft picks, the 5th pick in the draft, and a team that is already good.
The Coyotes are in a prime position to build a team that can compete for a Stanley Cup very soon. Look for them to compete with Edmonton, Toronto, Buffalo and Winnipeg in the best young team in hockey competition, starting now.