VANCOUVER - The Canucks blueline took a big hit Thursday.
The team announced defenceman Alex Edler will be out indefinitely to undergo microdiscectomy surgery in his lower back, an injury he likely suffered during Monday's game against Dallas.
"He has a tear in one of his disc," said general manager Mike Gillis. "It won't heal on its own so it has to be repaired. If we don't do it now, he could risk for sure missing the remainder of the season and playoffs. If we do it now there may be an opportunity for him to return but we're not sure yet."
Gillis said the team will know more about the injury once Edler goes under the knife Monday.
"Sometimes it's more complicated when they get in there and they see what's going on," he said. "MRIs show a certain amount but there can be underlying problems that are there or it may be very straight forward and simple but we won't know that until we get past next week."
The 24-year-old collided with Stars' Jamie Benn on Monday and complained about the stiffness and soreness in his back the next morning. He sat out Wednesday's game against Nashville with what the team called "back spasms". Prior to that, he was the only defenceman on the team to have played in every game this season.
"They can't tell by the MRI when he suffered it but it's been clear it's been getting worse," said Gillis. "It may have been the hit. We found out yesterday and he has to have surgery."
The GM added that the surgery could not wait until after the season
"We felt the best option and Alex felt the best option was to get this done as aggressively and quickly as possible and give him an opportunity to return in time for the playoffs, if everything goes okay," said Gillis. "There really was no other option."
The 6-foot-3, 217-lbs Swede has been Vancouver's most consistent defenceman this season, with his longest slump without a point being only three games, which occurred once earlier this month. He was well on pace for career highs in goals and points, currently leading the blueline in scoring with 32 points and leads the team in ice time with 24:23 per game.
Gillis said the team can't replace a player like Edler but need to pull together to make up for the loss.
"He's playing a ton of minutes, he's playing in every situation, he was trending towards a plus-50 point guy," he said. "I'm shocked he wasn't selected to go to the All-Star game. It's disappointing but it also makes the group stronger. They have to do their part to continue this success."
In terms of cap space, Edler being on the long-term injury list may provide more leeway for the return of Sami Salo, who has yet to suit up this season with a torn Achilles.
"He's going on LTI so it does change the landscape to some measure," said Gillis. "When Sami's cleared medically to play, we have a plan for him. He's been inching along, he seemed to have hit a plateau a week or so ago and now he's fighting through that.
The team does not plan on re-calling any additional defenceman from Manitoba.