In a recent podcast, The Athletic Vancouver Canucks writer Thomas Drance indicated LA Kings defenseman Alex Edler is still capable of top-pair minutes with a catch.
On the first day of the NHL’s free agency frenzy, the LA Kings bolstered the blue line with the signing of Alexander Edler. The 35-year-old was selected in the third round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft and spent his entire 15-year career with the Vancouver Canucks.
Edler gives the Kings a veteran defenseman along the left side to help groom the likes of Mikey Anderson, Kale Clague, and Tobias Bjornfot. That said, he also brings an element of physicality, offensive ability, and is a reliable penalty killer. The Athletic‘s Thomas Drance, who covers the Canucks, recently appeared on the All The Kings Men podcast to discuss what the Kings are getting in Edler and where he might best fit in.
“While he didn’t play the most minutes, he played the toughest assignments,” Drance noted. “He was the ‘toughs’ guy.”
Edler’s final season in Vancouver saw him tally no goals with eight assists while logging 20:54 TOI, a career-low since his rookie year in 2006-07. Over the last three seasons, the Ostersund, Sweden, native has consistently been a force on the Canucks’ penalty kill.
The Kings finished with the league’s seventh-best penalty kill (83.7%) in the abbreviated 2021 season. It was an area the team needed to improve from the previous two seasons, and the addition of Edler should only continue Los Angeles on an upward trajectory in that department.
Edler still has a lot to offer offensively from the blueline, an area the Kings struggled mightily last year. While he doesn’t anticipate being utilized on the powerplay, Edler should be able to assist the Kings in achieving more points from the back end in even-strength situations. Don’t forget; he’s only a year removed from a 33-point (5G, 28A) campaign.
However, they will have to be mindful of his minutes.
“One thing you’ll notice about Edler, too, is the last few years what’s happened is the season starts out, and Edler looks he’s 32-year-old Alex Edler for the first 20 games,” Drance said. “And because the Canucks haven’t been deep enough to play the way he probably should, which is honestly at this stage in his career, is third-pair minutes. He should play 17 minutes a night, PK, and honestly should sit out the second leg of back-to-backs.
“He should be on a load management regiment because when he’s at the form when he was in the first 20 games of the season…he is still absolutely a fringe top-pair caliber guy, but he just can’t sustain that over 82 [games] anymore at this stage of his career and with the physical play, style that he brings. The thing that I’d be watching for really closely is usage,” he added.
The 35-year-old spent the majority of last season paired with newcomer Nate Schmidt, who had a down year relative to the previous three seasons. In addition to monitoring his time-on-ice, the Kings would greatly benefit from pairing Edler with a puck-moving defenseman – someone like Sean Walker, as Drance and host Jesse Cohen noted. Walker finished the year on a strong note, tallying seven points in the final six games. In all, the 26-year-old accumulated five goals and 13 assists in his third NHL season.
“You do need Edler to play with a more mobile puck mover,” Drance concluded. “But I also do think one challenge for a more offensive-minded defender like Sean Walker is he will have to do some of the work in the neutral zone defensively, denying entries, playing free safety a little bit because of Edler’s declining foot speed. That’s what made Edler such a good fit in 19-20 when the Canucks began to manage his minutes a little bit better, after he had a November injury, with Troy Stecher.
“When he returned, he played with Troy Stecher on the third pair, and Stetcher is a mobile defense-first defender, and that worked really, really well. One thing about the calibration of that pair of Walker-Edler makes a ton of sense in your mind’s eye, but the challenge for Walker is he will have to do more defensively as well. Edler needs help on both sides of the puck in neutral ice if the pair is really going to work and cook with oil, but no question he’s going to suppress expected goals-against.”
Potential defensive pairings?
Anderson – Doughty
Clague – Roy
Edler – Walker