Vancouver Canucks: Alex Edler extension should be short term

VANCOUVER, BC - MARCH 17: Alexander Edler #23 of the Vancouver Canucks skates up ice during their NHL game against the San Jose Sharks at Rogers Arena March 17, 2018 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)"n
VANCOUVER, BC - MARCH 17: Alexander Edler #23 of the Vancouver Canucks skates up ice during their NHL game against the San Jose Sharks at Rogers Arena March 17, 2018 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)"n /
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If the Vancouver Canucks are going to extend defenceman Alexander Edler, general manager Jim Benning has to do his best in ensuring the deal doesn’t go beyond three years.

With the Vancouver Canucks surprisingly hanging around in the playoff race — just weeks before the trade deadline — all signs point to general manager Jim Benning retaining defenceman Alexander Edler.

In fact, Benning already said that the team is looking towards extending Edler, per Sportsnet’s Iain MacIntyre. The 32-year-old is slated to hit free agency this offseason, but the Canucks are keen on retaining their longest-tenured player.

At first look, it makes all the sense in the world to keep Edler. He’s a leader on this young team, and the veteran Swede has been their best blueliner this season. Edler has made it clear all along he wants to stay in Vancouver, too. And unless the Canucks were to get a mind-blowing offer at the deadline, Benning doesn’t have much of a reason at this point to trade Edler.

That said, the Canucks need to be cautious when it comes to negotiating a new contract with Edler. The man turns 33 years of age in April, and he has a long injury history. This isn’t a case where the Canucks should ask him to sign a blank cheque.

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For the Canucks, they should tell Edler that he can be retained on the basis that his new contract goes for no more than three years.

That would take Edler into his age-36 season, and there’s no guarantee that he’ll still be playing like a top-four defenceman at that stage.

Soon, top blueline prospects Olli Juolevi and Quinn Hughes will be in the NHL. Down the road, you figure Benning will have traded for and/or signed more impact defencemen to help this team in their Stanley Cup quest.

Three years at around $5-6 million a season seems fair for Edler. But if the Canucks go four seasons or longer, they’ll be taking a serious risk.

Keep in mind that in three years from now, the likes of Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson will be in the midst of lucrative, long term contracts themselves.

Benning has to take a long look at the future before he starts working towards an extension with Edler. It’s important to factor in future cap space, and the fact they have some great blue line talent coming in soon.

Keeping Edler is obviously the wise choice, but given his age and recent history, giving him a term of four years or longer is simply too risky. It hasn’t worked out with Loui Eriksson, who was 31 when he signed his new contract. The Canucks have him for three more years after this.

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For the Canucks, it makes more sense to give Edler more money and less term. Reward him for everything he’s done up to this point, but don’t just give him that Canuck “for life” contract. Make sure the deal is for no more than three years.