June 05 2014 12:22PM
When the duo of Trevor Linden and Jim Benning were introduced as the two minds charged with attempting to restore a broken Vancouver Canucks franchise coming off of an embarrassing season, both made it abundantly clear that they had no real allegiances to any of the players they were inheriting.
They were each coming in with a clean slate, and after Linden's dial-up issues were resolved (and all of his data was *finally* downloaded), they'd be able to work together to identify who of the bunch was an innocent bystander, and who was actually responsible for how poorly things unfolded as the year went along.
Neither of them were entrenched in their current positions of power when anyone on this roster had been originally acquired, and neither was responsible for the plethora of No Trade Clauses that had been handed out like candy during Mike Gillis' tenure. That was presumed to be a legitimate luxury because of this old boys' club feel the NHL still has, in which a GM would be put into an uncomfortable situation by having to approach someone who he had previously signed to a contract in an attempt to fix it and save his job, because of some "code".
This may very well still come into play as the offseason goes along, but not when it comes to Alex Edler; he reportedly won't be asked to waive his NTC by "Lindenning". And reading further into the brain trust's comments, it appears that they'd like to keep another one of "The 10", Ryan Kesler, around as well.
The Edler situation presents with the Canucks with an interesting dilemma that's worth discussing further. Everyone is all too familiar with the fact that he finished the year with a -39 rating, the worst of anyone in the league. I'd like to think that if you're reading this blog you're aware of the pitfalls in placing any real stock in an individual player's +/-; there tends to be a valid explanation for these sorts of things, especially when a player goes from +28 for his career to -39 in one season. No one gets that bad that quickly.
|Corsi For %||Corsi Rel QoC||On-Ice Sh%||On-Ice Save %||Off Zone Start %||Point Per Game||5v5 Shots/60||5v5 Assists/60|
I wouldn't blame Edler if he wanted to get as far away as he possibly could from these parts after that remarkably hellish season. He was tasked with handling easily the toughest minutes of his career, and only had that compounded by dredging through unimaginably poor on-ice luck. As Cam wrote about back in April, history tells us that those percentages should see an uptick next season, which'll surely make his counting stats look more desirable.
The problem, though, is that his person rate of offensive production has taken a hit every season since '10-'11, conveniently coinciding with the departure of Christian Ehrhoff to Buffalo. Ever since Sami Salo left in free agency himself the following year, it has been a thankless mission trying to find a partner for him, with the Kevin Bieksa and Jason Garrison experiments failing miserably.
While a number of factors probably play into that, most of his offensive decline this past year was a result of an assist rate which was sliced in half from previous years. He should take his fair share of the blame; there's no denying that his play, a common phenomenon last year, wasn't good enough considering what he has shown to be capable of in the past. But it's also fair to wonder whether he has also been an unfortunate victim of the talent level around him dropping progressively since that banner season.
For the team to part ways with him this summer, they'd assuredly be doing so at a drastically discounted price. Around last year's entry draft they reportedly turned down the haul of Brendan Smith, Tomas Tatar, and Riley Sheahan. I imagine that the offers the Canucks would receive for Edler a year later would pale in comparison to that, putting it lightly. Interestingly enough it's those very same Detroit Red Wings that have been interested in restarting the trade talks, presumably because they're a very well run organization that realizes the buy-low potential.
Of course, just because the Linden has come out and said that they won't ask Edler to waive his NTC should likely be taken with a grain of salt. Particularly since the Red Wings will hardly be their only pursuers should Edler's name be floated around in rumours again, with the market for defensemen this summer playing a big role in that.
According to Cap Geek there are 92 blueliners set to become unrestricted free agents on July 1st. Quickly scanning through the list, two main trends present themselves:
a) There are a lot of players on their last legs amongst the bunch. 49 of the 92 are on the wrong side of 30 years old already, and 20 of them are already pushing their luck as 35+ year old professional athletes.
b) An overwhelmingly large number of the names on the list are, quite frankly, not very adept at hockey.
By my count there are a grand total of 6 options under the age of 35 that could conceivably fill a top-4 spot on a good team -- Matt Niskanen, Tom Gilbert, Mark Fayne, Ron Hainsey, Kyle Quincey and Anton Stralman. And I'm being generous; Fayne may just be a product of the New Jersey cocoon, Quincey has been largely underwhelming ever since he left Colorado, and Hainsey is 33 years old. Niskanen's price tag likely leaves ~80-90% of the league out of contention for his services. It really is grim.
Only compounding that is the fact that you're probably not going to be able to draft a defensemen that'll immediately slot into that role if you're a team picking outside of the lottery either. There aren't a lot of options if you're one of the teams looking to upgrade at that position. Which most teams are. There's currently a massive discrepancy in supply and demand when it comes to defensemen that can play big minutes, move the needle offensively, and not be liabilities on the other end. It's why those sorts of players often get vastly overpaid when they become available.
All things considered, it's easy to see why many a GM would be hot on the trail for Edler. Especially since it'll only get better for here from here on out. So, wait; why exactly are so many in the Vancouver Canucks contingent eager to see them say goodbye to what's considered a hot commodity around the league? Unless someone's offering a game-changing package, it seems like this is a particular asset that would be of use to have around.