June 3, 2018 | 5:21pm ET



Oliver Ekman-Larsson, defenceman


Things are starting to heat up in the desert and we’re not talking about the summer weather. 

With star defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson eligible to sign a contract extension as early as July 1, the speculation surrounding the player’s future has been all over the place.

Ekman-Larsson, 26, has one-year remaining on his current contract, which comes with a $5.5 million salary cap hit.

On May 16, it had been reported the Coyotes and Ekman-Larsson had been discussing an eight-year deal worth just over $8 million per season.

This past week, while attending the 2018 NHL Draft Combine in Buffalo, Arizona GM John Chayka reiterated the importance of signing OEL long-term and where that stands on their priority list, though added he doesn’t have a deadline in place to sign him.

“We’ve been very clear that we’re willing to do whatever we possibly can to have him come back, and [we] think he’s a heck of a defenseman, heck of a player, heck of a person,” Chayka told NHL.com. “Really believe in him and what he can bring to our team. Trying to get something done to lock him up long, long term. Build around him and really put together a team he deserves.

“He’s had some hard times and we feel we can really surround him with the best people and the best players so that he can show what he's capable of.”

During Friday’s “Insider Trading” segment on TSN, Bob McKenzie reported “the ball seems to be squarely in Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s court,” as he has an eight-year deal on the table worth $8.25 million per season.

McKenzie notes that if Ekman-Larsson doesn’t accept that deal, “the Coyotes would, of course, look at their options in terms of maybe going down the trade route. . . . Sooner rather than later, both sides would like to know where this thing’s at.”

The former 2009 sixth-overall pick has reach the 40-point plateau four times in his career, with his best single-season point total coming in 2015-16 when he registered 55.

Ekman-Larsson is entering the final year of a six-year, $33 million contract that he signed with former Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney in March of 2013.