With tonight’s blockbuster between the Blues and Sabres cranking up the heat on trade speculation across the League (DOMINOES!!!), let’s take a quick look at one of the names being batted around the rumour mill as it pertains to the Maple Leafs.
Alex Edler Scouting Report
Courtesy of McKeen’s Hockey:
Why the Leafs Might Want Him
There is the familiarity factor when it comes to Dave Nonis potentially dealing for a Vancouver Canuck. Alexander Edler was a 91st overall pick under him in 2004, meaning Nonis was around to see Edler’s first 97 games as an NHL defenceman in 2006-07 and 2007-08.
He’s 6’4, 215 lbs and skates well enough for a big man to log serious minutes. He’s shown he’s willing to throw that size around if so compelled.
Edler finished 7th overall in scoring among defencemen in 2011-12 with 49 points, shouldering major PP minutes and playing largely with Sami Salo at 5 on 5. He found success alongside the stay-at-home Salo but the Canucks haven’t really found the same fit since. Nevertheless, Edler has been averaging 23+ minutes this season, led the Canucks in minutes with 23:50 last season and again the season prior with 23:51.
Edler’s contract is a matter of perspective; it’s not a bargain today, but there’s cost certainty at $5 million per year until July 1, 2019 and by year 3 or 4 of this 6-year contract (signed in the summer) it may well look like a steal providing this year is an aberration for him.
The Leafs appear to have a legitimate number one defenceman in Dion Phaneuf and then a sizeable hole in their top 4. Gunnarsson is a solid second pairing option, while Rielly, Franson and Gardiner have flirted with looking top-4 ready but are either too young or too inconsistent to be called upon as one reliably. Could Edler be the defenceman who helps fill out the Leafs top 4 by bumping the rest of their D into more appropriate roles?
Why the Canucks Might Move Him
Well, if not facing the prospect of a full-blown rebuild, the Canucks appear to be entering a retool stage. Anything could happen in Vancouver, with Kesler and Edler at the forefront of the BC rumour mill.
Edler received ample powerplay time under Alain Vigneault, averaging 3:30 over 2011-12 and 2012-13. His PP time has been cut by over a minute this season under John Tortorella, and his powerplay points are way down accordingly. The Vancouver powerplay has been atrocious, hovering around 13% for much of the season. The sum total is that Edler is on pace for his worst offensive season since his rookie year.
Defensive gaffes and turnovers from Edler have frustrated Canucks fans this season. It’s not the most meaningful stat, but his -23 stands out like a sore thumb on a Vancouver defence largely comprised of pluses (their other five regulars in Bieksa, Hamhuis, Garrison, Stanton, Tanev are a combined +21).
That doesn’t exactly sound like he’s going to come in and stabilize a wonky Leafs top 4, but there has to be some measure of bad luck going into this that could make him somewhat of a buy-low option. His team’s shooting percentage is way-low at 4.35% when he’s on the ice and Vancouver goalies stop a lower percentage of pucks with Edler on the ice than any other Canucks D. His shots per 60 at 5v5 are actually up from this season to last. This might be an opportunity to grab an established top-4 defenceman, with lots of past evidence he can play capably on a top pairing, just entering his prime years at 27. He’s another lefthanded defenceman, but he’s got plenty of tools and fits the age profile of the Leafs’ core.
Why It Probably Won’t Happen
The issue with the Leafs in terms of any prospective deadline deals for players of significance is that it has to be a near-even salary-for-salary exchange of roster players to make it work. The Leafs don’t have room now or in the summer, with a bevy of expiring contracts, to take on much in the way of cap hit.
Offloading salary in a separate deal is always possible, but it would have to be a significant piece dumped and a drastic shakeup of this magnitude by a team firmly in the playoff picture seems unlikely. That said, the Leafs aren’t convincing many of their contender status as it stands and should be looking to improve if and when they can.
The Leafs, if they’re taking on a big contract on defence, may be looking for someone with a better reputation in their own end of the rink given the Riellys, Gardiners and Fransons (granted, both of the latter two are not likely to be here long term) provide offensive options from the backend.
Further, if the rumours about the Canucks looking to essentially undo the mistake of moving Cody Hodgson for Zach Kassian are true, Mike Gillis is looking for a young center with top-6 potential. The Leafs aren’t exactly in a position to hand over one of those.
What say you, MLHS? What’s your level of interest in Alex Edler?