If the Vancouver Canucks lose top blueliner Alexander Edler in free agency, how will it impact the plans of general manager Jim Benning?
The Vancouver Canucks and Alexander Edler were supposed to have practically zero issues in agreeing to a new contract, but as free agency draws closer, it seems like the 33-year-old could end up finding a new home.
A month ago, Rick Dhaliwal of Sportsnet 650 reported that there’s “lots of work to do” in regards to contract negotiations with Edler. There haven’t been any major updates to suggest that the Canucks and Edler are making progress on a new deal, either.
On Monday, Sportsnet’s Iain MacIntyre noted that general manager Jim Benning and agent Mark Stowe aren’t “revealing details” about contract talks. Some wonder if the Canucks only want to give Edler a two-year deal, since they wouldn’t have to protect him in the 2021 Seattle expansion draft. Per MacIntyre, Benning said the Canucks “don’t have the appetite to do that.”
Working out the dollars shouldn’t be an issue, but the term is most likely the sticking point. Edler is 33 years of age and has been marred by injuries over his career. He was Vancouver’s top defenceman in 2019, but giving an ageing and oft-injured blueliner a contract longer than three years carries too much risk. If Edler won’t do a two or three-year pact, the Canucks should move on.
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But that leaves Benning without a top-pairing blueliner, and the defence is Vancouver’s weak link. If Edler ends up signing elsewhere in free agency, what exactly can Benning do to fill the void left behind?
The easy option is for Benning to draft a blueliner with the No. 10 pick in next week’s draft. Just one problem: None of the defencemen who will be available are likely to make the jump to the NHL in 2019-20.
Benning probably wants a prospect that’s nearly NHL-ready, since he’s under pressure to make the playoffs as he enters the final year of his contract.
Benning could try to explore the trade market for somebody like Jacob Trouba of the Winnipeg Jets, or P.K. Subban of the Nashville Predators. Both would come at hefty prices, but if it means landing a top-pairing blueliner in his prime, Benning should explore it.
But if Benning doesn’t draft a blueliner with the No. 10 pick, and if he doesn’t land a top-four defencemen via trade? It’ll probably force him to get anxious and thus overpay for somebody like Jake Gardiner or Tyler Myers. No, the Canucks shouldn’t go after Erik Karlsson.
Gardiner and Myers would obviously be able to bring some offence and solid puck-moving skills from the back end, but neither are as responsible defensively as Edler. And assuming Karlsson were to sign before Gardiner or Myers, you can bet that the price for the latter two will be driven up big time.
Overpaying for Gardiner or Myers isn’t ideal, but it might be Benning’s only chance to fill the void left by Edler. Outside of Karlsson, Gardiner, Myers and maybe Anton Stralman, there aren’t any pending UFA rearguards who are capable of replacing Edler’s role and heavy minutes.
So if Edler and the Canucks don’t reach a new deal, Benning has three choices: Draft a blueliner at No. 10, or try to find a top-four guy in the trade market. If neither of those happen, then his only choice may be to overpay for somebody like Gardiner or Myers.