Jim Benning is entering his fifth trade deadline at the helm of the Vancouver Canucks, and the decision he’ll have to make with Alex Edler is up there with the biggest deadline decisions he’s had to make.
The Canucks general manager did have a similar situation last season with Erik Gudbranson, but that one ended with Guddy re-signing in Vancouver. It’s suffice to say that not many we’re looking at that situation as a win-win.
Things are different with Edler. We’re not talking about a one-dimensional defenceman who’s goals against is worst in the NHL. We’re talking about Alex Edler, arguably the Canucks best defenceman of all time, and one who is still playing admirably. Edler has put himself into a situation where his services would be valued by a number of teams, but at what cost?
Of course Edler’s unwavering loyalty to the city also plays a factor here, and it means there’s a strong chance that we see him back in a Canucks sweater in 2019-20. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but here’s a look at how the two scenarios could play out favourably.
Trading Edler helps build for the future
Edler is playing his best hockey at the right time. Even at 32 years of age, Edler is proving that he could slot into the top four for a number of playoff teams and still play at a high-level.
Imagine Edler as a third-pairing guy on a Stanley Cup contender. There are some teams who could really cement their defence as elite by making a move to acquire Edler.
Just by looking at the sixteen teams currently in a playoff position, here are the teams that I could see making a play for another solid left-shot defenceman: Buffalo, Calgary, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, New York Islanders, Pittsburgh, San Jose, Washington, Winnpeg.
That’s one-third of the league that should have interest in Edler. Considering he has a no movement clause and presumably wouldn’t go to any city without legitimate Stanley Cup Aspirations, let’s eliminate some of the teams.
Arguably, that leaves us with Calgary, Colorado, Pittsburgh, San Jose, Washington and Winnipeg.
.@PierreVLeBrun: I believe the Flames have identified the need to find a left-handed defenseman who is on an expiring deal. So, I don't know if Edler is of interest to Calgary, but I can tell you that I think the Flames..want to add a little depth on the left side— TSN Radio Vancouver (@TSN1040) January 8, 2019
If Edler does become available, that’s a decent number of teams who could be vying for his services. With that many teams bidding for Edler’s services, the chances of getting a first-round pick for him would be high.
At the very least, a second-round pick and a mid-grade prospect seems like an absolute certainty if he were to hit the market.
Look at it this way: guys like Ian Cole, Brandon Davidson, Michael Kempny and Nick Holden were good enough to snag third round picks in trades last season. Ryan McDonagh was the only defenceman to fetch a first rounder, albeit in a package deal.
If Benning is somehow able to flip Edler for a first-round draft pick, this is the most ideal of any scenario for the Canucks. We’ve seen in this city what the power of a first-round pick can do for the organization, even if it’s later in the draft. Brock Boeser is a superstar that the Canucks snagged at 23rd overall, and Judd Brackett has done nothing to show that he isn’t at the top of his game when it comes to scouting.
If you can get the pick, trust in Judd to find the right player.
Re-Signing Edler rewards his loyalty to Vancouver
At this point I embrace the Edler as a Canuck forever gameplan. Not gonna deny someone who loves the city this much, that crazy bastard. #OneOfUs— Wyatt Arndt (@TheStanchion) January 7, 2019
While trading Edler for a first-round pick should remain the ultimate goal (especially if you do that and end up re-signing him in July), the fact that the Canucks’ longest-tenured player wants to stay with the only organization he knows is something that should be commended, not mocked.
Alex Edler How dare you love the city you play in and use your NMC you negotiated at the time you signed your contract!!!!! #canucks— Peter Anderson (@Peteisneat) January 8, 2019
Look, say what you will about Edler flexing his no-movement clause. He earned that contract after four straight seasons averaging 32 points or more while being one of the Canucks most consistent defencemen. He earned that after being one of the Canucks most consistent and physical defencemen in the postseason.
For every guy like Edler or Kevin Bieksa who wants to remain Canucks at all costs, there are guys like Ryan Kesler and Pavel Bure who couldn’t wait to get out of this city. As a collective fan base, do we really want to be pushing guys who want to be here out the door? In the age of social media, don’t think that’s lost on other players around the NHL.
Reminder: Edler has earned the right (literally - it was negotiated) - to determine whether he wants to be traded or not. It's his call and it should be respected.— somebody (@Steve_May) January 8, 2019
If Edler does flex the no-move clause and re-signs in Vancouver, that could still be considered a win. The one caveat is that the Canucks could be “set” on the left side, running with a younger defence of Quinn Hughes, Olli Juolevi and Ben Hutton.
However, Hughes and Juolevi have yet to play NHL games, and Juolevi likely needs more time in the AHL to recover during the 2019-20 season.
As for Ben Hutton, his turnaround season has been a positive story, but he’s still a third-pairing defender on a good team. The argument that the Canucks can cut bait with Edler because of Hutton has some merit, but it also underscores the lowered expectations of fans in this market.
For guys like Juolevi and Hughes, Edler represents someone who could be a good mentor in the coming years. Considering that this is the city he clearly wants to stay with, it’s a role he would likely embrace. As someone who’s played more games in a Canucks jersey than any other defenceman before him, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better mentor.
And now...how the Canucks lose
Even an eternal optimist can’t ignore the some of the scenarios where the Canucks lose in the Edler situation. While simply re-signing him or trading him can both be viewed as wins, there are a few ways how the Canucks can mess up the Edler situation.
1) The Canucks get a mediocre return for Edler
Trading Alex Edler is a win for the Canucks...on the surface, at least. The number of bidders involved combined with Edler’s strong season should recoup a first-rounder for the Canucks, if he were to be traded. At the very least, a second-rounder with a middle prospect should suffice.
However, what if Edler is traded and the return is subpar? Is that still a fair trade?
Say Alex Edler accepts a trade to San Jose to play alongside Erik Karlsson. The Sharks would have to shed salary to make it happen. Let’s say they trade away Karlsson’s current partner, Brenden Dillon, and a fourth round pick in 2020, since the Sharks have already depleted their picks.
If that’s the return, I’m not sure so many people are on board with trading Edler. Yes, trading him can be good for the organization, but only if Benning gets a fair return.
2) The Canucks overpay Edler
If Edler does re-sign in Vancouver, Benning and Weisbrod have to make use of their leverage. A deal of market value, or a reward of sorts for his work in Vancouver isn’t an acceptable outcome. The Canucks might have cap space now, but they will have some huge contracts to sign over the next couple of seasons.
Giving Edler a raise and a contract extension longer than three years is worrisome. His health is among the top of those concerns. By then, Edler’s play will likely be in decline, and burgeoning stars such as Boeser, Pettersson, Hughes and Demko should all be signed to long-term contracts.
Edler re-signing as a Canuck is good. Edler re-signing to another five-year deal is not good.
Nick Kypreos suggests on @Sportsnet650 a 3 year deal worth $15-17M might be something Edler would take to remain with the Canucks.— James Cybulski (@JamesCybulski) January 8, 2019
3) The Canucks Lose Edler to Free Agency for Nothing
Now that this isn’t Benning’s first rodeo, you hope that he’s learned from his past deadline mistakes with Radim Vrbata and Dan Hamhuis. If you want to look at how the Canucks can lose the Edler situation, you can look directly to how the Canucks handled the Hamhuis situation.
Like a bad ending to Black Mirror’s Bandersnatch, Benning has to avoid another outcome like that. Some people will be happy to see Edler traded for a fair return, others will be happy to see him re-sign with the club, but no one will be content if Edler walks for nothing. Not when the possibility of recouping a first-round pick is on the table.
The Perfect Scenario for the Canucks
There’s no secret that Alex Edler wants to stay in Vancouver. There’s also no doubt that he would fetch a decent return on the open market.
If the Canucks were somehow able make both of those things happen, this seems like the ideal scenario for the club.
Murph on Edler : The perfect thing for the club would be to get an asset for him and re-sign him in the summer. However, if you are the player there is the risk of injury and going to the wrong team.— Sportsnet 650 (@Sportsnet650) January 8, 2019
Edler has been around this team longer than anybody. He’s seen his long-time teammates such as Kevin Bieksa, Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen traded away in deals that made this team better in the long-term.
Unlike Burrows, and to a lesser-extent Hansen, Edler still has some tread on his tires. Despite the injuries, Edler should still be playing NHL games for the next three or four seasons.
If he decides to go play for a Stanley Cup for the betterment of the club and then re-signs at a reasonable price, the market here would be ecstatic. It’s all in Edler’s hands if he wants to make that happen.