Edler, Canucks defenseman, to become unrestricted free agent

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Alexander Edler will become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his NHL career, the agent for the Vancouver Canucks defenseman said Friday.

“It’s just a matter of the right time for Alex to try free agency,” Edler’s agent Mark Stowe told “Donnie and Dhali – The Team” on Chek TV in Vancouver. “He’s played over 925 games and been with the Canucks organization for 15 years. It’s more … the chance to do so and perhaps the last time in his career because he’s older.”

Edler had eight assists in 52 games with the Canucks this season and was fourth in the NHL with 118 blocked shots. The 35-year-old signed a two-year, $12 million contract (average annual value $6 million) with Vancouver on June 20, 2019.

He previously signed a six-year contract (2013-19) and a four-year contract (2009-13) with the Canucks to avoid becoming an unrestricted free agent following his three-year, entry-level contract (2006-09).

“We wanted to hear what the Canucks had to offer and that was the threshold,” Stowe said. “Then having seen what they offered, and nothing regarding their offer that was offensive or anything like that, it came back to whether he wanted to stay or not. And given the dynamics of the timing and his age I think that was the turning point. Once he decided to move on, I advised the Canucks that he would be doing so and there’s no more negotiations at this time.”

Selected by Vancouver in the third round (No. 91) of the 2004 NHL Draft, Edler has scored 409 points (99 goals, 310 assists) in 925 regular-season games with the Canucks, and 38 points (eight goals, 30 assists) in 82 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Edler leads Canucks defensemen and is fourth among all players in games played for Vancouver, behind Henrik Sedin (1,330), Daniel Sedin (1,306) and Trevor Linden (1,140). He ranks first in blocked shots (1,762) and hits (1,432).

“Wasn’t an easy decision at all,” Stowe said. “He has a lot of friends, teammates, loyal people that have helped him and supported him in the organization for a long time. Wasn’t a decision that happened over night.

“I don’t know if he’ll leave, he has a home [in Vancouver]. I’m sure there will be some emotions by the longevity and the past. It’s a business nowadays. That’s part of it too. As you get older as a person and as a player you realize that. Even draft choices that are traded before they’re signed. It’s a business from the time you’re an 18-year-old until you’re 35 or older.”

Stowe said that though Edler hasn’t ruled out eventually signing with the Canucks, it would appear a longshot.

“There’s a chance,” he said. “The whole UFA thing is risky. Even if we circle back, there might not be money on the table if it doesn’t work out for Alex with other teams, so he could be without a job potentially. That’s one of the things you consider and you advise and the player has to make a decision. There are a number of other teams out there and he’s rolling the dice a little bit, but hopefully it will turn out in his favor.”

Edler averaged 20:54 of ice time per game this season and has averaged at least that amount in each of his past 14 NHL seasons.

“He’s got gas in the tank, at least for a couple of years,” Stowe said. “Otherwise he wouldn’t be pursuing this. Given his ice time, I believe it was over 20 minutes last year. If he’s healthy he’s going to be fit and ready and I think he’ll be able to play another couple years in the League.”

The Canucks (23-29-4) finished last in the seven-team Scotia North Division this season and failed to qualify for the playoffs. They have qualified in eight of Edler’s 15 seasons, including losing in seven games to the Boston Bruins in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.

“I think that’s a factor that he considered,” Stowe said. “I guess we’ll find out if any team perhaps is Cup contenders or [in] the upper echelon will contact us and we’ll see. That’s a factor to consider when signing with a new team.”

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