As the trade deadline approaches, it has become increasingly evident that one of the Vancouver Canucks’ most effective veterans, Alex Edler, won’t be shopped to a contending team.
Moving Edler at the deadline was always going to be a long shot. The defenceman, as has been well documented, has a no-trade clause, as well as an affinity for Vancouver. And while teams dwelling near the bottom of the league standings (and despite the fact the Canucks are still in the race for a playoff spot, they are currently 24th in the NHL) usually tend to sell off their more productive veteran assets this time of year, the Canucks have shown a reluctance to do that in recent years.
Even before Chris Tanev’s injury, it looked like the Canucks were intent on keeping him as well. Tanev and Edler have formed the Canucks’ top pair for much of the season, but both are known to be injury-plagued at this point in their careers and though Edler has had a strong season, they are on (or close to) the wrong side of 30.
The 32-year-old (he turns 33 in April) Edler hasn’t played over 75 games in a season since 2011-12. He has 20 points in 38 games this year, which is pretty solid. But what that means for the Canucks is that he likely will want market value on his next contract.
What’s market value for the 30th defenceman in terms of points-per-game (among those who have played more than 20 contests)? Not to mention one that can play first-pairing minutes?
It’s hard to appropriate how much Edler is worth on the open market, but one has to think that he could easily get a three-year deal (and maybe even a fourth year from a desperate club) from a team that wants to augment its second pairing.
With that in mind, it’s imperative that the Canucks keep Edler in the two-year range. A two-year deal will take Edler till he is 35. There aren’t too many rearguards in the league that are able to maintain their play past that age. And given Edler’s extensive injury history, it’s easy to cast doubt on how he’d be able to handle the grind of more NHL seasons.
This is, after all, the first campaign since that 2011-12 season that Edler has been able to produce at a point-per-game rate.
Maybe the veteran takes a hometown discount. Most calls for that type of thing are overblown and it only really happens when the club is a contending one. But in this case, it makes some sense. Edler gets to stay where he wants for another couple of years and the Canucks get a solid presence on the blueline who has developed a relationship with his countryman Elias Pettersson.
Of course, hockey players often chase security over anything else. If Edler wants a three- or four-year pact, the Canucks are better off asking him if he’d waive his no-trade clause at the deadline. Losing him for nothing in the offseason would be terrible, yes. But signing him to a longer term deal could hamstring the team, especially if he runs into injury trouble once again.
A three-year deal (or a longer one) would mean that the Canucks would have to protect Edler in the expansion draft in order to keep him from Seattle’s new team potentially poaching the vet prior to the 2021-22 season.
Edler will almost definitely want another no-trade clause written into his contract. If you’re the Canucks, you can deal with that on a two-year deal, sure.
On a three-year deal, that spells trouble. It would mean that the Canucks would have to protect Edler in the expansion draft. That might not be a huge deal. After all, there’s no way the club is protecting Erik Gudbranson in that scenario (if he’s still on the team). The only other rearguard under contract for that year so far is prospect Olli Juolevi.
But the Canucks will presumably have both Troy Stecher and Ben Hutton signed to new deals by then. Those two have been the team’s defacto number one pair while Tanev and Edler have been hurt, and both have made strides this year.
Lump that in with the fact that, if highly touted prospect Quinn Hughes plays more than 10 games with the Canucks this season (it’s already confirmed that he’s going to sign with the club when his University of Michigan campaign is over), he will need to be protected in the expansion draft.
Having Edler on a no-trade clause at that point would be disastrous. The Canucks need to be smart here. A two-year deal would be ideal from the Canucks standpoint. A three-year deal with no trade protection would be troubling, but a three-year or longer contract with a no-trade clause would be very hard to stomach.
The Canucks management team has a real test in front of them, one that will go a long way toward convincing the fan base that they are capable of assembling a team around the high-end prospects they have unearthed.
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