December 11 2012 08:36AM
If there's anything we learned from the Cody Hodgson trade, it's that given the amount of experience and connections Tony Gallagher has forged over the last 50 or so years in the business, it's probably safe to trust him for some things.
Which makes me think that Alexander Edler may have played his last game as a Vancouver Canuck, particularly after Larry Brooks wrote a column this morning suggesting that the reason for the NHL's attempt to genetically engineer each team's salary structure to even the playing field.
In short, I don't think Laurence Gilman can talk his way out of this one.
But it’s more complicated than that. First of all, GM Mike Gillis and his financial cohort Laurence Gilman handle cap issues as well as anyone in the game. They’re always confident they can sign anyone no matter how dire the situation might seem. And with these two guys you know they’ll have a plan of some kind to keep the guy.
Gillis and Gilman will no doubt express confidence at being able to re-sign Edler one way or another, as they’ve been able to get players to buy into what they’ve been trying to do here in the past. But they lost Euro D’s Mattias Ohlund, Christian Ehrhoff and Sami Salo, all of whom they thought they might be able to keep. But when some team comes along to lavish enormous coin on their respective bank accounts, these guys couldn’t resist, and who could blame them?
The whole column is filled with snarky asides, and he pays lip service to the conspiracy theory that the Canucks somehow manipulated his injury status to allow them to pay Edler during the lockout in order to nudge him into signing a deal.
Reading between the lines here, I wonder if it's been dropped to him that the Canucks may be thinking about getting rid of their top powerplay quarterback, the same way they were forced to lose Christian Ehrhoff. Neither player is particularly good defensively.
Clearing up something about Edler's playoff performance, while it is true that he didn't look good, that was mostly due to bad luck. I had Edler at a +9 in scoring chances in five playoff games, with just 13.6 chances against per 60 minutes. What was unfortunate for him is that many of his 19 scoring chances against were off of Edler's individual miscues, and six of them ended up in the Canucks' net. He didn't get bailed out, but on pure volume alone, Edler had a superior defensive performance to Kevin Bieksa or Dan Hamhuis, match ups aside.
(Let me speak once again to why we count total scoring chances against, not just the ones where it was a clear miscue on the part of a player. If you place the onus on a single defenceman when you count a scoring chance, then you're gaming the system against the defenders who carry the puck a lot or see a lot of ice-time. NHL defencemen who give the puck away a lot tend to be positive puck possession players. This is because they happen to have the puck a lot, and make successful plays. Hockey is a game of ratios, and not of raw numbers, and saying that Edler had 19 scoring chances against in five games means absolutely nothing until you tack on the 28 chances "for" the Canucks had when he was on the ice.)
Salary cap casualties
All that said, of the five Canucks defencemen who are paid dollars of real consequence, if they're going to have to get rid of two of those the obvious one is Keith Ballard. The second, you'd have to assume the team would hold onto Kevin Bieksa, Dan Hamhuis and Jason Garrison. The salary cap will drop, and it strikes me as impossible that there will be any amnesty provisions. I'm skeptical to the things Bill Daly and Gary Bettman say in front of a microphone, but the impression I get from Bettman having reading Jonathan Gatehouse's book on him is that he was pretty peeved at the "back-diving" deals which ensures certain players will be paid more money than count against the cap.
But is it about money? Or is it rather about genetic engineering; about the league using this opportunity to divert players from big market franchises onto small market teams in less desirable situations who own scads of cap space?
There’s only one way to find out. And that is for the NHLPA — whose interests coincide with the big market franchises — to propose a sum-zero amnesty buyout program when the league and players reconvene at some point this week in an attempt to nail down an agreement.
Brooks has an idea for a buyout provision that would allow teams to reduce the cost of a particular player while keeping the cap hit that doesn't bring in the money outside the system. Bettman, suffice to say, has absolutely zero imagination and doesn't have the capacity to understand that some hockey players are better than others even if they get paid less. In the previous collective agreement, the only team to miss the playoffs all seven seasons was the loaded Toronto Maple Leafs (although they never showcased an interest to spend money). Seven seasons leading up to the 2004-05 CBA, however, the only team to miss out on all seven seasons was the New York Rangers, who both had, and spent, a lot of cash.
I don't want to editorialize too much on Bettman, except I will point out that every system he's designed with the intention of locking down player salaries hasn't worked. I will also point out that it took a couple of years for owners to learn how to creatively circumvent his first salary cap, and if Laurence Gilman only has a couple of weeks or so to figure out how to fit Edler, Ballard and Roberto Luongo under a projected salary cap between $55M and $60M, that may be one miracle he can't pull off.
Edler is the natural fit to leave, however. He simply isn't effective enough in tough minutes and he's an unrestricted free agent after this season anyway. He was tied for sixth in defensive scoring last season, so naturally has a bit of trade value, and the next guy will simply latch onto that spot on the first powerplay unit before he gets too expensive.
How about Edler to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Cody Franson?