When the Edmonton Oilers signed Milan Lucic on July 1, 2016, Oilers fans cheered. Lucic’s seven-year contract seemed like a good deal. During the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons, he scored more than 25 goals and 60 points each season, and between 2010-11 and 2016-17, not counting the strike-shortened 2012-13 NHL season, he had 118 goals in five seasons (almost 24 goals a season).
With the Boston Bruins and, in 2015-16, the Los Angeles Kings, he had become a tough-playing, high-scoring power forward. When he signed with the Oilers, he was lauded as a player who could both score and use his size to protect Oilers’ superstar Connor McDavid.
Fresh on the minds of Oilers fans was the game at Rexall Place on Nov. 3, 2015, when the young rookie McDavid was flying with the puck through the Philadelphia Flyers zone and got “tangled up” with Brandon Manning. He fell hard into the end boards and broke his clavicle. He missed both 37 games and winning the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie. Later, Manning admitted that he had intended to injure McDavid.
That experience made the organization consider Lucic as more than a good hockey player, but also as McDavid’s protection. To give Lucic his due, he’s been a warrior throughout his career: he plays hurt; stands up for his teammates; and he can be a presence on the ice.
What’s Lucic’s Status?
However, because he is not nearly the player he once was, his contract has become an albatross. Now, he’s on an Oilers team with a new general manager (Ken Holland) who’s tasked with clearning up the organization’s mess. That makes Lucic expendable.
Lucic is a Vancouver native and, just over a month ago, during an interview on Sportsnet 650 Vancouver, he was asked if he could ever see himself finishing his career in Vancouver. The answer sounded like a job interview. In short, he’d relish a move to the Vancouver Canucks.
It’s no surprise that a number of trade rumors have emerged involving Lucic and the Canucks’ Loui Eriksson. Basically, this trade would be for each team to rid themselves of a player it no longer wants. Last weekend, TSN’s Darren Dreger reported that the “Canucks do see value in” Lucic, although Edmonton probably has to throw in “some type of sweetener for a trade to work.”
I don’t believe this is a trade the Canucks should make. Although there are a few good reasons to trade for Lucic, there are more reasons not to trade for him. In this case, the bad outweighs the good.
Reasons Not to Trade for Lucic
Reason One: Lucic’s Body Is Older Than His Years
There was a time when Lucic was the definition of a power forward. He was (and still is) big and strong, and I watched him in his heyday literally carry a defender on his back and push the puck one-handed past a goalie. However, his physical style of play has worn him down and he’s now playing much older than his years. (Corey Perry is suffering from the same issue with the Anaheim Ducks.)
His days of consistently intimidating an opponent with his power are over. Although he’s seldom been injured, he has experienced a season-by-season decline. He was great when he was with the Bruins early in his career. He also played well in his first season as an Oiler, but now, sadly, his best days are behind him. He plays old, and he will continue to play old next season, and the season after.
Reason Two: Lucic Has Lost His Speed and Skills
Lucic was never a speedy skater, and his skill has further diminished over the years. In today’s NHL, to be effective, one needs at least some skating ability. Hockey is faster which calls for quicker skaters, and it is more demanding. He’s simply too slow.
Lucic is a warrior, but one only needs to look at his career statistics to note the decline. In his time with the Oilers, his scoring has steadily dropped. During the 2016-17 season, in 82 games he scored 23 goals and 50 points. In 2017-18, he also played the full season and scored 10 goals and 34 points. This season he had a career-low six goals and 14 assists in 79 games.
Lucic still has skill, but his scoring production is non-existent. Furthermore, he seems mentally perplexed. He’s said repeatedly that he knows he needs to play better but, as hard as he tries, he can’t seem to get his game back.
What’s left is a player whose top skill for the Canucks would be as a mean-spirited, fourth-liner who could, on the odd night, put the fear of God into a player who’s playing fast and loose with Elias Pettersson. But is that skill worth a $6 million cap hit when the team already has Antoine Roussel, who plays with an edge and willingly fights the necessary battles? At least, Roussel can put up some points.
Reason Three: Lucic’s Contract Has Four More Years and a No-Trade Clause
Lucic has four years left on his contract. At $6 million per season, he will make more money for a longer time than any other Canuck on the roster. Bo Horvat “only” averages $5.5 million per season. Both players’ contracts would run out at the end of the 2022-23 season.
Although the Canucks have the space to cover that salary, Lucic’s contract will become less desirable as it ages. The team would still be on the hook for his salary at a time when Pettersson is set to become an RFA at the end of the 2020-21 season. Because Lucic has a no-trade clause, the team would have to protect him in the June 2021 Seattle Expansion Draft, which means exposing another player.
Where the Situation Stands?
Canucks commentators suggest that, “if you ignore the fact Lucic has an extra year [compared to Eriksson], the Canucks have plenty of good reasons for doing this trade.” I don’t agree. Trading one bad contract for another – especially a contract with an extra year – isn’t a good idea for a young team moving forward.I can agree that trading Eriksson would be a good idea. I have also read
Give credit to Lucic. He’s had a solid NHL career. However, even if he is a home-town player, his contract should make him undesirable to the Canucks at this stage of his career.
Originally published at http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/TheHockeyWriters/~3/aeVIDrTVAfE/