Vancouver Canucks: How Alex Edler's Back Injury Affects Him and the Team

Riley KuftaContributor IIIJanuary 4, 2013

VANCOUVER, CANADA - MARCH 31: Andrew Ebbett #25 of the Vancouver Canucks is congratulated by Sami Salo #6 and Alexander Edler #23 after scoring the game winning goal against the Calgary Flames in overtime to win 3-2 during NHL action on March 31, 2012 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
Rich Lam/Getty Images

According to The Province, Vancouver Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler has been removed from the injured reserve list and cleared for play after spending the past three months rehabilitating from a back injury. It's not all good news, however, as Edler believes the ongoing issue will prevent him returning to 100 percent in the future. 

"There haven't been any red lights. I can do everything, but that doesn't mean I'm not feeling it. Sometimes it's sore and stiff, but it was sore and stiff last year and I played 82 games."

It's these honest words which worry and relieve fans at the same time. 

For Edler, this clearly means he may play out the remainder of his career in significant discomfort. But as he said, he played 82 games through his injury last season and more importantly, he was among the best defenders in the league with 49 total points. 

If Edler's performance last season tells us anything, it's that his on-ice impact and point production might not suffer from this unfortunate news, but the same cannot be said about his contract. 

Edler, whose four-year, $14 million contract expires following the 2012-13 season (or lack there of), was set for a significant long-term raise going into next season. While he should still see an increase on his $3.25 million salary, the unpredictability caused from Edler's condition will surely restrict both the length and amount of his upcoming contract. 

If the NHL lockout were to end in time for a shortened 2012-13 season, Edler would have the opportunity to once again prove that despite his injury, he is still capable of consistent production. Even so, his next contract will likely not exceed $6 million per year (especially if the new CBA includes a reduced salary cap).

As for the term of his contract, we can expect a three-to-five year deal or extension. The new CBA should have limitations on term length, but with his current status, the Canucks will want to remain below that level. 

The news comes as a disappointment to the Canucks, who expected (and still hope) that Edler would be a career, top defender for the team. 

The Canucks can be thankful, however, that Edler has already shown he can perform with discomfort. There can also be positives drawn from the fact that they may now have an elite defender available at a discount.

Lastly, general manager Mike Gillis can be thankful that while he may have discussed a contract extension with Edler during the offseason, the two did not reach an agreement prior to the expiration of the CBA. The Canucks are among the highest payrolls in the league with little flexibility. Signing an injured player to an inflated extension would only further restrict the team. 

If his performance is impacted, increased pressure may fall on former Florida Panther Jason Garrison, whom Vancouver acquired in free agency during the summer. It could also mean that the Canucks will be on the watch for a top-four defender, whether via trade or free agency next summer.

Their adjusted needs could also play a role in the departure of Roberto Luongo. Luongo has been oft included in trade rumors with the Toronto Maple Leafs. A previously declined offer from a defense-rich Maple Leafs team might just become an attractive option. 

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