Lightning Could Find Answer To Defensive Needs With Free Agent Target

Over the last three-plus seasons, there have been few NHL general managers busier than the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Julien BriseBois. As a team pressed firmly against the cap ceiling, he has been working magic at an unprecedented rate in order to clear out enough space to keep his stars around while still finding ways to bring in new talent to augment his Stanley Cup Champion core.

This work continued less than a week after the Lightning lost to the Colorado Avalanche in the 2022 Stanley Cup Final. Following this defeat, BriseBois made the difficult decision to trade franchise favorite defenseman Ryan McDonagh to the Nashville Predators for defenseman Philippe Myers and prospect Grant Mismash.

By all accounts, this was not a move that BriseBois wanted to make, but it was necessary to create enough cap space to re-sign core forwards that the team needed to stay competitive. Also, they have Mikhail Sergachev ready to take over McDonagh’s role on the left side of their defense, meaning he was somewhat replaceable in their line-up.

Lightning Should Target Edler in Free Agency

Following this trade, the Lightning now find themselves with a hole in their defensive corps. For the first time in years, they actually need a left-shot defenseman to slot into their bottom-pairing who can take on a limited but still important role for the franchise while carrying a small cap hit. Given their prospect pool, this means they will likely need to look towards the free-agent market to find a veteran player who is willing to sign a short-term, low-cost deal in order to compete for a Stanley Cup now instead of pursuing a bigger contract elsewhere.

When looking over the list of available free agents who could fit this role, one name jumps out: Alexander Edler. While he may not be the player who held down the Vancouver Canucks’ blue line for 15 seasons, he still is a solid veteran defenseman who could be transitioning to the championship over money portion of his career.

Alex Edler Los Angeles Kings Connor McDavid Edmonton Oilers
After spending 15 seasons with the Vancouver Canucks, Alexander Edler joined the Los Angeles Kings for the 2021-22 season and proved that he still could take on NHL ice-time. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

This could be a boon for a team like the Lightning, as they wouldn’t need Edler to be a world-class defenseman to have an impact on the franchise. He could come in and take on 12 to 14 minutes of solid ice time each night while providing a veteran voice in the locker room to replace what was lost with McDonagh’s departure (which will be no easy task of course).

Plus, as a left-shot defender, he could be paired alongside Myers or Cal Foote to act as a mentor to the young defensemen. He has seen almost everything the league can throw at you, after all, and either player would benefit immensely from playing in a sheltered role alongside a veteran like Edler as he can impart some of his wisdom to these developing players.

Edler Would Be a Short-Term Answer for Lightning

Of course, there are a lot of caveats that could prevent the Lightning from signing Edler. First, there is always the chance that he may decide to retire after playing 16 seasons in the NHL, or that he may not be interested in moving to the East coast after spending his entire career playing in the West.

Read Also: Lightning’s 2022 Draft Recap: Another Classic BriseBois Class

Secondly, Edler would need to take a pay cut in order for the Lightning to sign him. He was being paid $3.5 million by the L.A. Kings for the 2021-22 season, and he proved that he could still take on NHL ice-time. With this in mind, more than likely he will receive an offer of at least $2 million should he decide to return to play again.

However, this doesn’t mean that the Lightning will immediately be out of the running for him. As BriseBois has proven time and time again, great veteran players will be willing to take a pay cut if it means another chance at a championship. He could use the success of his team to lure a player like Edler to Tampa Bay, as the chance to hoist the Stanley Cup is a fantastic recruiting tool.

Alexander Edler Vancouver Canucks
Edler has a robust playing career but lacks a Stanley Cup Championship, which could be a bargaining chip used by the Tampa Bay Lightning to try and sign him to a low-cost contract during the 2022 Free Agency. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

So, while the Lightning won’t be big spenders during the 2022 free agency frenzy, they should be expected to make at least one move to shore up their defense. Signing a veteran like Edler could be a perfect fit for both player and franchise, so it’s worth keeping his name in mind as we approach July 13th.