Canucks make $66M defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson a healthy scratch vs. Lightning

Vancouver's high-priced blueliner was reduced to a spectator for Thursday's game against Tampa Bay.

Vancouver Canucks head coach Bruce Boudreau turned heads on Thursday when he admitted defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson could be a healthy scratch for the team’s contest against the Tampa Bay Lightning that night.

“Look, we’ll have to scratch a couple of players,” Boudreau explained. “I think [Ekman-Larsson] can be better, but I think there’s a lot of guys that can be better. Now it’s about accountability. It’s about a lot of things, so it’s something you don’t want to do. He’s arguably our best defenceman, but sometimes you have to do what you think is the best thing for the team right at that moment and that’s apparently where I am.”

Ekman-Larsson was indeed held out of the lineup and was forced to watch the game from the press box. It was the first time since March 29, 2011 — 4,307 days ago - that he experienced the unfortunate distinction.

A veteran of 13 NHL seasons, Ekman-Larsson has been on the ice for a team-high 57 goals as the Canucks sit in 12th place in the Western Conference with 37 points. They trail the Edmonton Oilers by 10 points for the final wild-card spot with three games in hand.

This season, his second with Vancouver, Ekman-Larsson has recorded a goal and 17 assists and a Corsi For of 45.2, while averaging 20:28 of ice time a night.

The native of Sweden was acquired from the Arizona Coyotes in 2021, along with forward Conor Garland. The Canucks sent Loui Eriksson, Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel and a number of draft picks back to Arizona in the deal.

Ekman-Larsson is currently in the fourth year of an eight-year, $66-million contract he signed while in Arizona, and holds a full no-movement clause. He becomes an expensive seat in the press box at an $8.25M cap hit.

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