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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The Plan for Milan

Since this time last week, it has become pretty clear the Oilers are shopping Milan Lucic and more importantly, Lucic is all right with it, more than all right with it. Is now the right time to move Lucic? No. Whether you are a fan of Lucic or not I think we can all agree that the Oilers will be moving an asset when his value is at an all-time low.

Oilers President of Hockey Operations Peter Chiarelli is dealing with two major issues right now. He has a player who he signed just two years ago that is now, all of a sudden, more than willing to waive his no-movement clause to get out of town. I’ve been told that the number of teams Lucic would not accept a trade to is very small.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that a Lucic trade is closer to being a matter of when not if or maybe more importantly how?

Immediately following the season, it seemed like Chiarelli’s main reason to move Lucic was because the player struggled. Two months later it appears as though Chiarelli is now attempting to move a player who is seemingly lacking desire to remain with the Oilers.

Lucic moves on in one of two types of deals. The Oilers could ship him out for another “bad” contract in return or they add to him and free up the cap space. At this point, I think the cap space deal is what Chiarelli is hoping for.

So the next question and the main reason for this article is what the plan should be for the cap space acquired in this deal.

I’m going to assume Chiarelli will need to retain about $1,000,000 per season leaving him with $5,000,000 to work with when free agency opens on July 1st. This money will need to be reinvested on the wings.

Here are a few options that would be available to the Oilers post-Lucic trade.

JAMES VAN RIEMSDYK (LW)

Age: 29
17-18 Stats: 80gp 36g 18a 54pts

The $5,000,000 per year freed up in a Lucic deal would not be enough to bring in JVR but with the additional cap space, they should have available after signing their RFA’s they might be able to make a deal work.

Van Riemsdyk may not be the likeliest of options available but I do think he would be the best one if you can make it work. Right now this is nothing more than a pipe dream for Oilers fans but getting a deal made for Lucic in the next three weeks would change that.

JAMES NEAL (RW)

AGE: 30
17-18 Stats: 70gp – 25g – 19a – 44pts

I’ve already seen some folks thinking the Oilers may be able to take a run at Neal without moving Lucic; I don’t think that’s possible. Neal becomes a very attainable target when the Lucic deal goes down.

Neal has scored at least 20 goals in every season of his 10 year NHL career. He has been to back-to-back Stanley Cup finals and has 100 career playoff games under his belt. Neal can play with an edge at times but sometimes appears to be a little too dramatic for my liking. He would be an ideal fit on the wing with Draisaitl.

ILYA KOVALCHUK (LW/RW)

AGE: 35
17-18 Stats: 53gp – 31g – 32a – 63pts

A 35-year old Kovalchuk is likely not the answer to the Oilers problems but he once again isn’t even an option until Lucic is traded. Kovalchuk spent this past weekend meeting with teams in California. Would he take the time to come to Edmonton for a visit if the Oilers promised him they’d have the space to sign him?

He won’t be the same player he was when he left the NHL but the bottom line is goals are extremely difficult to come by and he hasn’t lost the ability to put the puck in the back of the net.

RICK NASH (LW/RW)

AGE: 33
17-18 Stats: 71gp – 21g – 13a – 34pts

If Lucic had one of the most disappointing seasons in the NHL this past season Rick Nash couldn’t have been far behind him. The good thing about signing Nash would be that you’d still have cap space left to add another piece either up front or on the back end.

If you could get Nash and his 20-25 goals for around $3,500,000 per year you would have to look at it. Spoiler alert, he will let you down in the playoffs…if you make it.

RILEY NASH (C/RW)

AGE: 29
17-18 Stats: 76gp – 15g – 26a – 41pts

The second Nash on this list doesn’t come with the name recognition as the first but is likely a more impactful player at this stage of his career. After putting up 41 points last season is it crazy to think he has more in the tank?

He would provide McLellan with more flexibility when juggling his line up. I’m putting him on this list because I’m not sure they’d be able to sign him without moving the Lucic money.

THE WRAP…

Where is Thomas Vanek? I think Vanek may fit into their budget even if Lucic sticks around.

Chiarelli could also be looking at a third option where he trades Lucic for cap space and then moves other assets in a deal for a player under control with a cap hit around $5,000,000. The issue here is what are you possible moving and would it be worth it compared to signing one of the other guys I’ve mentioned.

If Lucic is moved prior to July 1st, the first few hours of free agency will be very exciting for Oilers fans.

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  • crabman

    I don’t agree that it is the wrong time to move Lucic. Yes he is going to be at an alltime low in his value but how much better will it get. Even a marginally better season will still be looked at as a let down for his cap hit and he will be a year older. If Je doesn’t bounce back it will be 2 very bad seasons in a row and I doubt he is moveable at that point.
    When he was signed most everyone was worried about what it would look like after year 5. Well it looks bad after year 2 and if a move can be made without taking on someone elses bad contract, it is the right time to move him.
    I wouldn’t be in a hurry to run out and add any of those players with the extra money. I would add the same type of players I would add even without trading Lucic, but maybe now we can get 2 instead of just 1, and sit on the rest for the trade deadline and next offseason.

  • crabman

    Out of the list of players you gave I wouldn’t be in a hurry to sign any of them.
    I would consider Rick Nash on a 1 year deal at or bellow $3.5M. But the rest will want too long or too much. We could afford to add Nash and Vanek both on 1 year deals. They help give the wings a boost, provide cover for Puljujarvi and would help keep Yamamotto in the AHL. That has value but only on 1 year deals.
    I would stay as far away from Riley Nash as possible. He looks to be this years Belesky or Clarkson. Career year in a contract year in his late 20s. He could get a multi year deal in the $3-4M range and be back down to his career 25ish points next year.