There are multiple obstacles standing in the way of the Canucks trading Alex Edler. First is that he’s still on the Injured Reserve while recovering from a concussion and hasn’t started practicing with the Canucks again. Second is the Canucks overall reticence to trade any part of their roster while they’re still in a playoff race.
Third is the Canucks desire to re-sign Edler and keep him on the roster as a veteran minute-muncher to mentor the young defencemen that will soon be entering the lineup. And fourth — and most important — is Edler’s full no-trade clause, which allows him to veto any potential trade. Since Edler has repeatedly made it clear that he wants to stay in Vancouver, that NTC is the biggest impediment to making a trade.
And yet, with the trade deadline fast approaching, the Edler trade rumours just keep coming back. Pierre LeBrun, in his most recent “notebook” for The Athletic, stated that “Calls on Alexander Edler have started to come in a little more frequently of late,” suggesting that there is interest in the big Swede around the league.
LeBrun also suggested that Canucks GM Jim Benning will likely approach Edler with a couple scenarios to see if he’s at all interested in waiving his NTC.
Personally, I’m skeptical that Edler gets traded. The Canucks still want to make the playoffs and Edler’s absence has been palpable. In the seven games he’s missed, the Canucks have gone 2-4-1 and have looked very sloppy defensively, exacerbated by Chris Tanev missing time with an ankle injury. Ben Hutton and Troy Stecher are suddenly playing 25-30 minutes per night, which doesn’t seem sustainable.
In other words, trading Edler would be tantamount to an admission that the Canucks are simply not yet ready to push for the playoffs.
Let’s set aside those concerns for the moment, however, and look at possible landing spots for Edler if all the impediments get cleared away. What teams would make sense as a trade destination for Edler?
The team would presumably have to be a Stanley Cup contender to entice Edler to waive his no-trade clause. They would have a clear need for an upgrade on defence on the left side. They would also need to have the cap space available to take on Edler’s contract, or at least half of it in a retained salary transaction.
As I understand the CBA, the Canucks could retain half of Edler’s salary of $4.5 million, taking $2.25 million off Edler’s $5 million cap hit. So, a team with $2.75 million in cap space could fit Edler in under the cap. Otherwise, a contract would have to go back the other way.
Let’s take a look around the league at who might make sense.
Tampa Bay Lightning
If you’re looking for a true Stanley Cup contender, you have to start with the Tampa Bay Lightning, who are running away with the race for the Presidents’ Trophy. They already have 96 points with 21 games left to play and an insane plus-80 goal differential, nearly twice as good as the next best team.
At the same time, they could use Edler, who would represent an upgrade on Braydon Coburn on the left side. They’re projected to have over $7 million in cap space at the trade deadline, so they could easily fit Edler’s contract. There’s also a Swedish connection on the blue line with Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman.
The biggest issue is just how good the Lightning are. They could easily justify standing pat at the trade deadline and go into the playoffs with their current roster. That said, they haven’t been shy about trading for defence. Half of their current top-six defence corps was acquired via trade: Coburn, Ryan McDonagh, and Mikhail Sergachev.
With an offence anchored by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin at forward, the Pittsburgh Penguins are perennial Cup contenders. They’ve also been linked with Edler trade rumours in the past.
The Penguins have a clear need for Edler as their left side on defence is arguably their biggest weakness. They allowed the third-most shots against in the NHL at 5-on-5, so could use a little help. They signed Jack Johnson to a five-year contract last summer that was immediately criticized, primarily because Johnson isn’t very good. Unsurprisingly, Johnson hasn’t been very good.
Edler would represent a significant upgrade on Johnson heading into the playoffs, but the issue is the Penguins don’t have the cap space to take on Edler’s contract. They’re projected to have a little over $2 million in cap space at the deadline, so would need to shed salary to take on Edler, even if the Canucks retained salary.
The defending Stanley Cup champions are once again a contender this season thanks to their high-power offence. Where they struggle a little is on defence.
Edler would be an upgrade on the left side, where the Capitals currently have Michal Kempny, Dmitri Orlov, and Brooks Orpik, along with Christian Djoos, who has been playing on the right of late. If the Capitals want to repeat, they would do well to upgrade their blueline.
Unfortunately for them, they have no cap space to do so. The addition of Carl Hagelin in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday pushed the Capitals right up against the cap, with a little over $100,000 in cap space at the trade deadline.
Any deal with the Capitals would likely have to involve Andre Burakovsky, who has a $3 million cap hit and is a Restricted Free Agent at the end of the season. Burakovsky has been the subject of trade rumours throughout the season, with the Canucks reportedly among the teams inquiring about the 24-year-old winger.
San Jose Sharks
Let’s turn towards the Western Conference, where the San Jose Sharks are one of the top teams. They have a great defence anchored by Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic.
That’s three names, however, and there’s room for an upgrade on the left side in their top-four. Edler looks like an upgrade over the likes of Brenden Dillon and Radim Simek, so could be a fit alongside Brent Burns as a stable, stay-at-home defenceman to let Burns roam without worry.
The Sharks have nearly $5 million in cap space, so could find room for Edler with some roster shuffling or by the Canucks retaining a bit of salary. Since Karlsson is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season (as well as Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton), this seems like the Sharks’ year to go for it, so the pressure might be on to add a rental or two for the playoff run.
Let’s stay in the Western Conference: the Winnipeg Jets are a popular pick to go far in the playoffs thanks to their top-end talent and depth at forward. They could use a boost on the left side on defence, where Edler would be an upgrade on Dmitry Kulikov or Ben Chiarot.
The Jets are in a bit of a slump and could use a shakeup, as well as the calming presence a guy like Edler can bring to the lineup. GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has been patient building his roster, but proved he was willing and able to make a big trade at the deadline with the Paul Stastny deal last year.
The Jets also have a wealth of cap space available, so that wouldn’t be a barrier, but would the Jets be a tempting enough destination for Edler to waive his NTC?
St. Louis Blues
Not that long ago, the St. Louis Blues were a write-off, seemingly spiraling out of control with a fight at practice after the Canucks crushed them 6-1 back in December. Since then, however, the Blues have surged forward and are currently on an 11-game win streak. They’re back to being considered a legitimate Cup contender.
They also have a serious need on the left side on defence. Joel Edmundson, Jay Bouwmeester, and Vince Dunn don’t exactly inspire a lot of confidence, while Carl Gunnarsson has been dealing with injury issues all season, playing just 18 games. Gunnarsson’s injuries could lead the Blues to seek help at the trade deadline and Edler would make some sense as a target.
The Blues have around $4.7 million in cap space, so could fit Edler with some roster shuffling or retained salary. If the Blues are interested, it may come down to how tempting they are as a destination. Edler would look pretty good alongside Alex Pietrangelo or Colton Parayko.
On the other hand, the Blues are on a pretty fantastic run right now and might not want to mess with their team too much.
One more Western Conference team, even though it’s one that might hurt: the Calgary Flames. It’s tough to imagine a career Canuck in a Flames jersey, but they are arguably the best team in the Western Conference and positioned well to add a rental at the trade deadline with $5.2 million in cap space.
The question is whether Edler fits the Flames’ need. They’ve got a good one-two punch on the left side in Mark Giordano and Noah Hanifin, so it might make more sense for the Flames to upgrade the right side or add a forward. If the Flames do want to solidify their third pairing, however, Edler would be an upgrade on 21-year-old rookie Oliver Kylington.
It’s more likely, however, that the Flames will look for a cheaper option on defence or make additions elsewhere in their lineup.
New York Islanders
The New York Islanders have been an unexpected success story this season, rebounding from losing John Tavares in free agency to lead the Metropolitan Division. While they’re far from Stanley Cup favourites, it’s hard to dismiss them as potential contenders.
The Islanders have tons of cap space, plenty of assets to move, and a GM in Lou Lamoriello that doesn’t hesitate to make big trades. The Islanders could potentially be one of the most active teams at the deadline and could use upgrades at both forward and defence.
The question is whether the Islanders would make sense for Edler. Would he want to go to a team that is having a surprising season or a more stable contender with more likelihood of going far in the playoffs?
The Nashville Predators are a strong contender this season, but that’s largely on the basis of their blue line, so it’s hard to see Edler being a fit.
The Boston Bruins are arguably the second-best team in the Eastern Conference, but they have little room on the left side on defence. Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug fill the top-four and Matt Grzelcyk is a solid third-pairing defender.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have a ton of talent and one of the best goal differentials in the NHL, but they’ve already added Jake Muzzin and their biggest need on defence is on the right side.
The Vegas Golden Knights went to the Stanley Cup Final last year and could use an upgrade on the left side on defence, but, for whatever reason, I find it hard to see Edler heading to Vegas. Call it a gut feeling. With my gut’s luck, however, that’s exactly where Edler will go.