LAS VEGAS – There are a few things that Alexander Edler can’t remember about Feb. 4, but a pile of stuff he’ll never forget about his National Hockey League career.
Like how the Vancouver Canucks discovered him playing as a teenager in a gloried beer league in Northern Sweden, and how they out-maneuvered the Detroit Red Wings to steal him in the third round of the 2004 draft, then brought him to North America to develop and gave him the chance to play in the NHL at age 20.
How the Canucks made Edler at home in Vancouver, where he met his wife, Amanda Lombardo, and the couple started a family with daughters Emme and River.
Edler doesn’t remember gruesomely smashing his face into the ice in Philadelphia on Feb. 4, when his stick became entangled on Flyer forward Jakub Voracek and the Canuck defenceman was torqued off-balance and fell helplessly, knocked out and cut open by the impact with the playing surface.
He recalls the ambulance ride to the hospital, and the oral surgery he underwent that night in Philadelphia, as well as a battery of tests and scans. But the game itself, the incident? Just what he has seen on replays.
Edler’s recovery from a concussion spanned last week’s trade deadline, when the 32-year-old (or at least agent Mark Stowe) was put in the uncomfortable position of refusing Canuck general manager Jim Benning’s request to consider waiving the player’s no-trade clause after Edler and the team began discussions on a contract extension.
“It was different because there were more things going on that I knew about,” Edler, one game after his return from injury, said Saturday following the Canucks’ practice here for Sunday’s game against the Vegas Golden Knights. “I think behind the scenes, when I was younger, there were maybe things going on (at the deadline) but nothing that I knew about. What was different was with this one is the other deadlines, I had a contract for the next year.”
Yes, that’s the thing.
Edler is an unrestricted free agent on July 1. He’ll be highly-coveted on the open market if he reaches it. And although the Swede has said numerous times he wants to finish his career as a Canuck, it really is entirely up to him to accommodate management’s need for a contract that won’t encumber an organization that faces an expansion draft in 2021 and a lot of big paydays looming for young stars emerging from entry-level deals.
Edler’s refusal to waive his NTC, negotiated in good faith as part of a six-year, US$30-million contract that was a bargain for the Canucks, frustrated a lot of fans. Many of them will be enraged if Edler signs elsewhere on July 1 and the Canucks are left with nothing.
“I don’t know if there’s anything I can say,” Edler said of his NTC. “That’s in my contract; it’s every player’s right (to negotiate that). I don’t think you can even make an agreement to get traded and then sign back as a free agent. I don’t know if that’s even legal. This was just a rule I had in my contract.
“I know how it works, how the business is. Managers try to make their teams better any way they can. I knew it (trade request) could happen if we didn’t come to an agreement before the deadline. I just kind of know that happens, even though if you have it in your contract.”
And knowing it could happen, Edler said, he wasn’t angry that the Canucks asked him to waive his NTC. That’s business.
But he wasn’t going to leave last Monday after 12 years in Vancouver and with the Canucks desperately trying to cling to the playoff race, and he doesn’t want to leave July 1, either. But his loyalty will probably be tested in negotiations by the Canucks, who will want Edler to compromise on a contract for something less than full market value.
Edler’s vow to remain a Canuck comes with the implication that he is willing to work with Benning on a deal, and the defenceman said Saturday he has no problem with that implication.
“I’ve been fortunate to have very good contracts with money,” he said. “But there are other things, too. It’s different when you have a family. There are a lot of factors you have to take into consideration. Those things are important.”
Edler still looks vital to the Canucks, who are 20-15-4 this season when their top defenceman plays, and 7-15-4 without him. That first winning percentage would make the Canucks a playoff team in the Western Conference, the second one leaves them the worst team in the NHL.
Edler, whose injury history blights his resumé, missed 15 games last fall with a sprained knee suffered here when run by Golden Knight Max Pacioretty. He sat out another 11 with his concussion. Edler could have missed more games due to his head injury.
“I hit the ice pretty hard,” he said. “But I didn’t have any fractures to my face. I think I got lucky that way. I felt I was in good hands with the Philly medical (staff) and the doctors at the hospital. When you get a head injury, things get scary because you really don’t know.
“I just wanted to come back and play and help the team out. We still have a chance to make the playoffs.”
And if they don’t?
“Maybe I’m just a loyal guy who wants to play here and wants to live here and win here,” he said. “I know that doesn’t always happen because the business doesn’t work out all the time. I understand that. But I’ve been treated well by this organization and city, and I’ve had some special moments here. Going through some tough years, that’s never fun. But the future looks better, and it would be pretty special to be part of that.”