In a little over two weeks, Alex Edler will be an unrestricted free agent. Recent reports suggest that the Vancouver Canucks have not had any progress with contract negotiations, and it’s looking like he will hit the open market. He is without a doubt one of the top Canucks defensemen of all-time. In fact, our own The Old Prof has him tied for third with Kevin Bieksa.
If he does make it to July 1, the Canucks will regret not fighting harder to keep him. So, without further ado, here are three reasons why they should make re-signing him a priority.
1) Edler Is Still a Top-Four Defenseman in the NHL
If the Canucks do not re-sign Edler, they would have to replace those points. This would be difficult as they have ranked in the bottom half of the NHL in scoring from the defense over the past few seasons. They could go elsewhere in free agency, but why do that when you have a known commodity in Edler?
He is still a top-four defenseman on most NHL teams. In an injury-shortened season, he put up 34 points in 56 games. If he played a full season, that would have been 50 points, a total he has not had in his career. He also hit double digits in goals with 10. I think every team would be happy with that type of production from any of their top-four defensemen.
Head coach Travis Green trusted Edler in all situations last season, playing him over 24 minutes a game while also matching him up against the opposing team’s top lines. These are huge skates to fill for any defenseman. If he is not here, who is going to fill the minutes and responsibilities? I know we all would be screaming Quinn Hughes, but he will be a rookie defenseman finding his way in the NHL. He is not a top-four fixture…yet.
If Edler can be re-signed for two or three years, Hughes and the other defenseman could gain valuable experience playing alongside him.
2) Edler Can Be a Mentor To Hughes and Pettersson
There is no one on the current blue line who can touch the experience Edler has. At age 33, he has patrolled the blue line for 879 games and has 368 career points. Chris Tanev is the only player who can hope to challenge him, and he is 418 games behind. As for points, no Canucks defenseman is even close. To say Edler is experienced would be an understatement.
His quiet leadership was a calming influence on many of the rookies this season. This was especially true of Elias Pettersson, as Edler was one of the main reasons why Pettersson felt comfortable in his rookie season.
“Beginning of the season, especially when I was new, everything was new to me, him and the other Swedes helped me a lot, just to be comfortable with this group and teach me some small things…he’s a really good person.” – Elias PetterssonFrom ‘Alex Edler is a leader for the Canucks, on and off the ice’ – Vancouver Courier – 01/24/19
As fans, we underestimate the impact an experienced leader has on a young locker room. You cannot teach or fake experience, you either have it or you don’t. If Pettersson didn’t have Edler as a mentor, we may not be cheering him on at the NHL Awards for the Calder Trophy.
Hughes also deserves the opportunity Pettersson had, as he enters his first full NHL season in 2019-20. I’m sure there will be many times where he will need a calming influence, especially when the lights get brighter as expectations inevitably grow.
3) Edler Will Not Demand $10 Million in Free Agency
Unfortunately, hockey is a business, and general manager Jim Benning needs to take the salary cap into consideration as he continues to build this team into a perennial Stanley Cup contender. Simply put, Edler will not be expensive to re-sign. He has already said that he loves Vancouver and wants to stay, so he will not demand a lot.
I think it will probably come down to whether or not Benning is willing to include a no-movement clause in the deal. This presents a bit of a conundrum for the general manager with the 2021 expansion draft looming. If Edler has to be protected, an important player may have to be exposed to Seattle.
If he would accept a two or three-year deal at $4 million per, they would have a top-four defenseman at a reasonable term and cap hit. By not investing $10 million in a defenseman like Erik Karlsson, the Canucks can pursue cheaper options like Jake Gardiner or Anton Stralman. It will also not handcuff the team in the future when Pettersson and Hughes require new contracts.
Bottom line, Edler wants to be here, and the Canucks should want him here too. “The Eagle” should not be allowed to leave the nest just yet.