Alex Edler, gone from this salary capped world?

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.

This came from Tony this weekend in the Province:

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.

From the Brooks column I mentioned above:

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?

  • elvis15

    Straight up as a Edler/Franson deal is a no. Granted, UFA status plays a role, but apart from dealing Luongo or Ballard there for some of their decent prospects/players, I don’t see what value we could get back that I’d really like. We aren’t going to pry away Rielly, and I have some concerns over Kadri and his skills translating enough to the NHL level to pay a lot for him.

    Perhaps a deal with Florida, where Bjugstad, Petrovic and Clemmensen (since Theodore reputedly doesn’t want to come) come back for Luongo and Edler? So many variables for what other teams would pay along with UFA/RFA status as well as what Edler would do to sign here, it makes it a tough call to consider moving Edler.

  • elvis15

    “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.”

    What? This sentence is missing a word or something.

  • elvis15

    I like Franson, and think he’d be a good fit here, but straight up for Edler? I think it’d be better asset managment to try and get Franson back in a package for Lu and then flip Edler elsewhere for prospects/piccks or a player who could fill a hole longterm. Realistically it’d have to be to a contending team that thinks they would have a good chance at resigning him, so they would have to have a fair amount of cap space. Off the top of my head Detroit and St. Louis seem to be the best fits. The Blues would love a guy like Edler to pair with Pietrangelo, and Detroit desperately needs a defenceman of his calibre. Both teams have some good pieces and could be willing to part with them to add Edler to their mix.

      • elvis15

        If it was determined that they’d be unable to keep Edler- then yeah. If this were the case and we didn’t trade him, he could end up in Detroit anyways and we’d get nothing for it. Might as well get some assets out of it. I’d rather trade him at the deadline and get some usable pieces instead of just getting a 4th Round Pick for him like Ehrhoff later on.

        If there’s no amnesty buyout it’s hard to see the Canucks being able to afford the kind of salary he could command. We’ll see what happens.

  • elvis15

    Why is Raymond not mentioned here? Surely unloading Luo, Raymond and Ballard gives the Canucks enough cap room to resign Edler with a bittle of wiggle room for incoming contracts/a UFA? I’m just stumped as to why we would consider compromising what stands to be the most solid back-end assembled by the Canucks in who knows how long. Edler has every single tool to become a top tier defenseman, and he has his age on his side. Removing him as well as Luo and Ballard means inviting at least 2 rookie defencemen on the team to stand in front of a goalie who has yet to play a full season as a starter. Obviously there will be some cap juggling, but I think there are some more exposed jenga pieces to pull…

  • elvis15

    Great article, always enjoy your work.

    It’s a bit tough to know that imports such as Jason Garrison and Dan Hamhuis took discounts to play in Vancouver. They drafted players such as Edler are apparently wanting big $$. I’d like to see Edler’s #’s if he hadn’t been caddying the Sedins around last few yrs?

    Either way, I was hoping they could package up Edler and get something nice for him. If they know they’re losing him to UFA, they really don’t have a choice. Nashville will play for losing Suter to FA, Canucks paid for losing Ehrhoff to FA – they can’t go through the same thing again w/ Edler. One hopes they’ve learned their lesson.

    I am a bit weary of believing the salary cap will be so low next season. As per Fehr, they haven’t even discussed transition rules or salary cap w/ league yet. The league proposed $59M, but that’s just the starting point. I’m guessing it will be somewhere around $64M for 2013-14.

  • asdf

    I think Alex will play one more season here and try to win a big contract. Having said that, I think his “big contract” will be with the Canucks and he will take a hometown discount to stay with the nucks. Ohlund and Salo were at the tail end of their careers and canucks didn’t want to give them the term they desired (as well as $ but issue was more with the term, and canucks were right to not give them that). Edler’s situation strikes me as different from Ehrhoff; Edler’s much more invested in this organization, being close to Gradin, drafted by canucks, developed properly, close relationship with the sedins and as a core member of this group. 5M/year for 7 (per max year allowed in latest CBA negotiations) – that seems reasonable and doable if canucks clear out some space.