VANCOUVER - Kevin Bieksa declined the bait, perhaps wisely, when asked to tell a favourite yarn about his Vancouver Canuck teammate Alex Edler, whose $30 million contract extension was the talk of the dressing room prior to Saturday's opening of the new NHL season.
“I don't have one story,” Bieksa said, smiling. “I think just to see the transformation in him is the big thing. I still remember his first year with the team and how young and raw he seemed and how kind of naïve and gullible he was. He's turned into a man out there.”
Edler, 26, signed the extension Friday night. It has a no-trade clause and will keep him under contract through the 2018-19 season. Bieksa himself is signed through 2015-16 so the pair will be teammates for another four years at least, barring the usual unforseen factors of injury or a surprise early retirement.
Edler broke into the NHL in 2006-07, one year after Bieksa.
“Alex has shown his commitment to Vancouver and that he wants to be here,” continued Bieksa. “He obviously took less money than he would have received on the open market and it's kind of the trend that's in this dressing room right now. Guys want to be here. Nobody wants to leave. Alex is a warrior and I think every team in the league would love to have a guy like him in their lineup.”
Edler, who collected two goals and an assist on the weekend, admitted he did contemplate heading to the open market next July when he stood to become an unrestricted free agent. But the thought was fleeting.
“I mean, it crossed my mind,” he said. “Maybe I did leave some money on the table, I don't know. But this is where I want to be. It's what I wanted. I don't think I could ever have dreamed about this (kind of money). I'm very happy the Canucks wanted me here and that they see me as a part of their future.”
The Canucks were talking to Edler and his agent Mark Stowe prior to the lockout. The team had tied up winger Alex Burrows and were looking to do the same with Edler.
“We kind of ran out of time there,” Edler explained. “It's nice to get it done before the season started. It's a great city, great fans, great organization. It was a no-brainer.”
Edler is making a prorated $3.25 million this season, the exact same money he will make in the first year of the extension. The contract then moves to $4.25 million in 2014-15, hits $6 million for the next three years before falling back to $4.5 million in 2018-19 when Edler will be 33.
The only question mark about the length of the contract would be the recurring back issues that have dogged the big Swede. He required surgery that cost him 31 games in 2010-11 and, this past fall, he remained under the team's care during the lockout until mid-December to take further treatment. He claimed Saturday he was healthy.
“My back has been feeling good so I don't think it was an issue,” Edler stated.
Selected 91st overall in 2004 by former GM Dave Nonis, Edler was part of a draft class that included Cory Schneider and Jannik Hansen.
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun