Vancouver Canucks defenceman Alexander Edler will be out four to six weeks with a sprained MCL, the team announced Saturday.
Edler suffered the sprain on Thursday when his club faced the Winnipeg Jets.
The 31-year-old has one assist in three games this season, with his Canucks set to face the Calgary Flames on Saturday night. New acquisition Derrick Pouliot will be his replacement.
“It’s a [blow] to lose a guy like Edler, he’s a big part of our back end,” coach Travis Green said. “But it’s a good opportunity for someone else.”
Edler averaged 24:17 of ice time over the first two games of the Canucks’ season and was on the top defensive pairing with Chris Tanev. He was a fixture on the power play and skated significantly on the penalty kill, so that opportunity will fall to Pouliot.
Little is expected out of the Canucks this season and that probably suits the former Pittsburgh Penguin fine. Vancouver brought Pouliot aboard in a trade that sent Andrey Pedan and a draft pick to the Stanley Cup champs.
The 23-year-old from Estevan has 67 games of NHL experience, all with the Penguins. He has a total of 14 points in his career, including two goals, and he is a quick skater. The Canucks would do well to test him out on the power play, as he can exhibit top-tier offensive instincts when given the puck.
The knock on Pouliot is that he’s not the strongest player in the NHL. His defensive zone coverage is also lacking, but that could change with more opportunity.
Edler has been among Vancouver’s most consistent players and his presence on the blueline has helped the team establish an identity, even in the midst of a rebuild.
He was drafted by the Canucks in the third round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft and has spent his entire career in Vancouver, posting 301 points in 691 career games. His best season to date came in 2011-2012, when he put up 11 goals and 38 assists for 49 points in 82 games.
Last season, Edler had six goals and 15 assists in 68 regular season games.
But injuries have always been a part of his game, unfortunately. Edler has become comparable to Sami Salo in Canucks’ circles, with his time out of the game drawing as much attention as his time in the game.
In fact, that aforementioned 2011-2012 season has been the only season in which Edler has skated all 82 games.
How this reality could play out with next season as the final year in the defenceman’s current contract remains to be seen, but one has to imagine the time could be running out for the team and its player. And this latest injury could provide just another reason for the Canucks to see Edler off to another hockey club.