Gallagher: Edler might be the price of NHL lockout for Canucks
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Thursday that everything was off the table as far as the league’s offer to the players is considered, but far more often than not this is never the case.
Negotiations pick up more or less where they left off, and if both sides want to get a deal done, that’s likely to happen in this case as well.
So if this turns out to be the case, the clause whereby free agency remains exactly the same as it was in the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement has a pretty significant affect on the Vancouver Canucks.
On the surface it means au revoir Alex Edler at the end of this very shortened season unless he’s willing to take a Prince William haircut.
If there is no season, Vancouver fans might never see the guy in a Canucks uniform again. After all, the team is up against the ceiling of the salary cap which is certainly not going to rise regardless of how the negotiations turn out, and most likely it will shrink considerably depending upon how this “make whole” provision will actually be brought to bear in the final analysis.
There is one caveat here. If they go ahead with the amnesty idea which is floating about which would allow the Canucks to dump the contract of Keith Ballard, it would immediately liberate $4.2 million in cap space.
If it’s run the way the NBA amnesty clause worked, Ballard would become a free agent and when he is signed by another team — pretend it’s for $1 million a year — the Canucks would still have to top up the man’s salary by $3.2 million per season with real dollars, but nothing would count against the Vancouver cap. That’s a guess because the NHL may have a different variation.
But that could give Vancouver some wiggle room to perhaps avoid what would otherwise be a devastating blow to their chances of competing for a Cup beyond this season. While other teams would also be up against cap constraints, many teams stand to pick up much more room than Vancouver through that same amnesty clause, so some will be in that much better shape to take a run at what would be a highly sought after defender, particularly if he’s able to put down another pro-rated 50-point season.
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.
But wait. Is he worth keeping here? As Canuck fans will remember, Edler had back surgery a couple of years back and now we find out that he is on the receiving end of a cheque during this lockout because of a phantom back injury. And we say “phantom” because he finished the season last year playing in all the playoff games, although perhaps that’s one explanation as to why his play was so abysmal as the Canucks crashed and burned in the first round. The question is, how is his back going to react when he gets hit again, and how much of a factor is this back going to play in his future?
The truly cynical might be thinking that perhaps the Canucks have figured out a nice little way of circumnavigating the constraining cap by slipping the good fellow his $3.25 million salary this year as a wink-wink down payment on what they would hope to offer him when they can next negotiate. But forget that.
As devious and amusing and helpful as that idea might seem, it’s far too risky. If they got found out, Bettman’s head might explode, and who knows how draconian the penalty might be. So the safest assumption here is that Edler has indeed been dealing with an ongoing injury.
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?
There’s bound to be a lot of twists and turns before this one ends. But if they lose Edler, or this injury causes him to lose the effectiveness we’ve come to associate with this stud, he’s going to terribly difficult to replace.