On July 16, it was reported that Alexander Edler would be testing free agency. He was drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in 2004 and has played 925 games with the franchise. With his career coming to a close, the 35-year-old may be moving on for another chance at the Stanley Cup.
It is important to note that Edler may still re-sign in Vancouver. However, if he doesn’t, Vancouver has a big hole to fill as he has been the leader of the club’s blue line for a decade. Here are three options the Canucks could look toward in filling Edler’s spot:
Ryan Murray is a good two-way free-agent defenceman. The 27-year-old put up 14 points in 48 games last season while averaging 18:36 per night with the New Jersey Devils. Murray can kill penalties, but has shown he has some offensive ability in his game as well. Last season, he made $4.6 million, so the Canucks will have to hope he will take somewhere between $3.5 and $4 million to come to Vancouver.
Right now, the Canucks’ left side is comprised of Quinn Hughes, Olli Juolevi and Jack Rathbone. Those are three offensive players who do not play the penalty kill, meaning they need that left-side defenceman who can kill penalties. That’s why Murray is such a great option. Last season, he averaged 1:41 per game shorthanded and was on the ice for 15 goals against through nearly 82 minutes on the PK. He also averaged 4.90 blocked shots per 60 minutes (BlkS/60) and 2.55 hits per 60 minutes (Hits/60). Although he may not replace Edler completely, Murray is still a good option to try and absorb some of the duties and minutes that will need to be filled.
For the Canucks to get Travis Sanheim, it would have to be via trade. This offseason, he’s a restricted free agent, but Philadelphia would most likely match if an offer came through. He is the right age for this core group (25), can play on the penalty kill, and isn’t afraid to be physical. (from ‘Flyers’ penalty kill humming now, even without Sean Couturier,’ Philadelphia Inquirer, 02/01/2021) He will most likely command more than $4 million per season, but the Canucks should still consider him as a potential trade target.
Last season, Sanheim had 15 points in 55 games. He played an average of 2:07 per game on the penalty kill and allowed 15 goals against in 116:23 minutes shorthanded. Partnered with Philippe Myers most of the season, he averaged 4.98 Hits/60 and 2.89 BlkS/60. Lastly, he can play on the power play in a pinch if needed. There is a lot of upside to his game, and he would be an exciting piece to add to this core. He may have questionable moments on the ice, but overall, he is a good player the Canucks should consider.
There is a lot to like about Carson Soucy. He is a physical defenceman who can play a shutdown role and contribute to the penalty kill. With the buyout of Ryan Suter in Minnesota, the Wild may want to trade him as he will be of interest to the Kraken during the expansion draft. He has a decent cap hit of $2.75 million per year until 2022-23 and is 26 years old. If the trade proposal is not outrageous, he is a player the Canucks should consider targeting.
Although he played on the right side this season, he’s had more success from an analytics point of view playing on the left. He had success in his limited penalty kill time, with 10 goals against in over 113 shorthanded minutes in the last two seasons. He did have a down year from a puck possession perspective in 2020-21, but as mentioned, he was playing on the right side, which caused him issues. There is also some offence to his game as he had over double the points Edler did this season despite playing two fewer games. As for his defensive game, he averaged 4.86 Hits/60 and 3.84 BlkS/60. He is a project piece but has shown he can play matchup minutes and kill penalties. This is a player who has potential and could thrive as a shutdown defenseman if given the opportunity.
Hard to Replace
If Edler does choose to leave, he will be difficult to replace. He’s the franchise’s all-time leader in goals, assists, points, and power-play points by a defenceman. His work on and off the ice made him one of the best defencemen to ever wear the Canucks jersey. Vancouver will have a tough time this offseason trying to find a new shutdown left-side defenceman, but the three options listed could make good replacements.
Adam is excited to be joining The Hockey Writers as part of the Seattle Kraken and Vancouver Canucks team. His work can also be found at dubnetwork.ca where he covers the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League.