When you run a blog for a contending team that loves to make big trades, it’s never too early to keep your ear to the ground and stay thinking about the 2019 NHL trade deadline.
In what could be the first report, ping, and idea to monitor - we saw a tweet yesterday linking (albeit very loosely) the Pittsburgh Penguins to Vancouver Canucks defenseman Alex Edler.
Nothing imminent by any stretch, but told some teams have Alex Edler on their radar for later in season. Not shocked if Pens among them. Edler has full NTC, in last year of deal ($5M cap hit). He’ll have decision to make later on this season.— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) October 23, 2018
Does it make sense?
As usual, there’s some positive and negative aspects.
The Penguins have been dreadful defensively - giving up 3.43 goals/game against in the first seven games. The big free agent signing Jack Johnson has been on ice for 10 5v5 goals against in 7 games. Olli Maatta’s play has seemingly regressed. Justin Schultz is out injured for a majority of the season.
Pittsburgh’s a mess defensively, which is a real shame considering they have allocated about $27.89 million of their salary cap to the defense. That’s the third highest total in the league, only behind San Jose and Winnipeg. So would the Pens really be looking to add another high-priced defender? And what would that mean for the others?
Also, it’s probably worth mentioning that Edler has had a very tough start to the 2018-19 season, but there is good reason to think a lot of that is circumstantial and may be about to improve (The Athletic- Dellow - $).
Still, Edler has been a very solid top-pair defensive defenseman; one of the few with that “defensive defenseman” label that actually has data to support that his shot suppression an limiting events against help a team, instead of just being a catch-all to describe a player who isn’t very good.
As Pagnotta mentions, nothing will be imminent here. The Pens are about a million under the salary cap (assuming full health) but that total will grow throughout the season as a pro-rated amount to where CapFriendly currently estimates Pittsburgh can add up to $6.4 million in a yearly salary at the deadline. So the Pens will need time.
Vancouver also needs time to see where their team ends up. At 5-4-0 through nine games they certainly are off to a better start than many projected. It’s still early but if they remain in the playoff hunt they might not have interest in dealing Edler after all down the line.
The full no-trade clause is also an important aspect to consider. The Pens were unable to convince a former Vancouver defenseman in Dan Hamhuis to ever sign in Pittsburgh. Edler, 32, has only played for the Canucks and has been there since 2006. Would he prefer to stay out west? Would he just outright block any trade and insist on finishing the season in VAN? Is the allure of playing with fellow Swedes Patric Hornqvist and Carl Hagelin enough to allow himself to be traded to Pittsburgh? These are yet unknowns and very important questions.
Pens fans will get the chance to see Edler in action Saturday night when he and his teammates host Pittsburgh. Edler won’t be leaving town with the Pens that night, but his situation, Vancouver’s future and how Pittsburgh plays on defense could present an opportunity somewhere in the future.
At the very least, file it away as an interesting note for later on as the deadline approaches..