The best time to trade Alexander Edler is at the draft, before Edler's NTC kicks in. I know Gillis doesn't believe in asking his players to waive their NTC/NMC, and maybe it's not Gillis style to sign a player to a long-term extension only to trade him before the extension kicks in, but I think Gillis should look into trading Edler.
Without a doubt, the best case scenario for the Canucks is for Edler to develop into a dominating #1 defenseman in the NHL. He is arguably the Canucks' most talented defensemen, he is young and has been consistently productive in the regular season (10+ goals 40+ points over 82 games). Edler is capable of logging a lot of minutes and has shown an ability to dominate physically, even in the playoffs. Elder has the talent to develop into a top pairing defenseman in the NHL. Unfortunately, that was the same argument for keeping Edler two years ago and nothing has changed except for the fact that he just signed an extension for 6 years (albeit through his prime years) at $5M a season with full NTC.
Simply put, Edler's development has stalled. I think he has even regressed. Two years ago in the playoffs, Edler showed his ability to physically dominate games. While Edler doesn't have a natural mean streak and so isn't expected to keep up his physical play over 82 games and the playoffs, the fact that he can turn up the physical intensity in the playoffs gave the Canucks hope that Edler can develop into a true #1 defenseman. But in the last two years, Edler has shown zero ability to carry a defensive pairing and hasn't shown chemistry with anyone on the team. The two guys he showed chemistry with were steady vets like Ohlund and Salo (those two made everyone better). Not only has Edler's play been inconsistent (which he has always been), he's somehow become more error prone, giving pucks away, and exhibiting poor defensive coverage and gap control. Despite being on the team's #1 PP and relatively productive (I think Garrison should be there), he doesn't look comfortable out there and you wonder why the PP sucks this year and two years ago AV thought Sammy was the better option.
What happened to him? He's been terrible the past two playoff seasons and in the three playoff games he's played this season, he been caught flat-footed more often than he's thrown punishing hits. He looks like an aging Ohlund out there without the experience. Grabbing hold of someone and tacking guys after the fact is what a guy like Albert does when he gets exposed.. not Edler.
Seriously, has Edler's pairing been the team's best pairing for any stretch of 10 games the past two seasons? Has he even been a physical force for one game in the playoffs the past two playoff years? This season he's a -5. Only Alberts is worse at a -7. All other defensemen have better +/- stats with Garrison being a +18. Curiously enough, Edler's +/- stats the past three seasons haven't been anything to write home about despite the Canucks having a good goal differential. Ya I know +/- stats never tell the full story, but we know Edler doesn't play the toughest minutes.
Edler's failure to carry a defensive pairing and his seeming lack of chemistry with anyone on the team is concerning. Hamhuis can play with anyone. Bieksa is best with Hamhuis and Garrison can play with anyone if he's playing on the left side. With Tanev and Corrado's emergence, Edler has actually become a difficult fit. Without Edler, the Canucks salary structure on defense would be a whole lot better (especially if Ballard is moved) Hamhuis can play with Bieksa and Tanev can play with Garrison. Corrado can develop on the third pairing. I honestly want Edler to succeed with the Canucks, but I'm seriously having my doubts. Edler can command a significant package in terms of youth and draft picks that will help secure the Canucks future. I don't think the Canucks will be hurt that much banking on Hamhuis, Garrison, Bieksa to not decline and Tanev and Corrado to continue their development.