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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Speculation: Oilers have a deal in place for Lucic?

According to Andy Stickland from Fox Sports, there are rumblings circling that the Oilers could have a deal in place for Milan Lucic. This rumour comes only a week after his agent, Gerry Johansson, appeared on Oilers Now to calm things down a little bit so the timing is pretty funny overall. Which side is right? Let’s break this down. 

After the season ended, there has been a seemingly endless supply of rumours surrounding the Oilers and Milan Lucic. Guys like Gregor, Friedman, and Seravalli have all talked about Lucic’s willingness to accept a trade out of Edmonton and how the Oilers are working to make it happen, but that’s kinda where things have stopped. The rumours were coming in hot and heavy for a while, but have calmed down considerably over the past couple 10 days or so.

Last week, Milan Lucic’s agent jumped on Oilers Now with Bob Stauffer to talk about the rumours that his client wanted out of Edmonton, and whether or not he had asked the organization for a trade. At the time, Johansson was pretty adamant that he hadn’t had any trade request conversations with the Oilers and that Looch would be back and ready to play come training camp time. Did he ask? Didn’t he? Is this all just a semantics game?

From the interview:

“I have not had that conversation with Peter. I can tell you this, it’s funny, cause I do hear this a lot when a player has a tough year, which Milan did, and when teams have a tough year, which obviously Edmonton did, you hear all sorts of crazy stuff that goes on. Obviously, there’s a lot of frustration on everybody’s part — because there should be. Everybody expects more and as with Milan and as should the Oilers. But Milan is 100 per cent ready to come back and play. And he’s going to be back with the Oilers. He’s always been an Oiler since the day he signed.”

At the time, I didn’t really buy what Johansson was selling and I still don’t, especially when you consider that he was showing up on the radio only 24 hours after Chiarelli dropped a ‘no comment’ when asked directly if Milan had requested a trade. Rather than just saying no to Jim Matheson’s question, Chiarelli added fuel to the fire which meant that the inevitable damage control was coming. I mean, showing up on the rights holder’s Oilers-centred radio show to dispel a rumour that was taking off wasn’t exactly surprising move from the PR playbook, ya know?

“I can promise you he’ll be back and ready to roll.”

Sure, Gerry, I fully agree with you that he’ll be ready to play by the time the season rolls around again but are we sure that it’s going to be here? Andy Strickland isn’t exactly Eklund here, and what he’s saying is a direct contraction to the story we all heard a week ago. So who should we believe? Either way, we’re getting closer to an answer.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

I’m guessing that the if Strickland is right and the Oilers do actually have a deal in place that will move Lucic out of town, that it will only come after the Oilers pay out his $3.5 million bonus on July 1st. If that’s the case, you would hope that paying out his bonus means that the return would get bumped up considering the Oilers would be taking care of a fair chunk of what’s left in actual dollars owed. According to NHL Numbers, Lucic is still owed $26 million on his contract, and having the Oilers take care of his July 1st bonus would leave whoever picks him up on the line for the remaining $22.5 million (if they retained the full value of his contract, of course). It’s still a lot of cake to be certain, but it’s also significantly less than the $30 million in cap space that he’ll take up over the five remaining years on his deal.

Could there be a budget team out there that needs to add to the cap while also wanting to save some cash while they’re at it? It’s possible. Is it more likely that whatever the return would be is another similar cap hit type of contract (read: older overpaid player)? Probably.

That all said, with the horrible year he had in 2017-18, I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Lucic back in an Oilers jersey for the upcoming season because I assume the offers that Peter Chiarelli is fielding on him are pretty underwhelming. Unless they agree to retain a bunch of salary or take on a bloated contract coming back the other way, I don’t see how the Oilers can win this trade from a hockey perspective. That’s said, if the Oilers believe that Lucic’s decline will be swift and steady over the last five years of his contract, or if he is truly unhappy being here as I think he is, then it would make sense to do whatever it takes to get that elephant out of the room. Attitudes matter and from what I’ve heard from people I trust, Lucic’s wasn’t all that great at times. Then again, Strickland’s tweet could turn out to be nothing at all, just like the endless rumours that were flying around last week before the draft.

Could this be a case where the Oilers add by subtraction, giving themselves some cap relief that they desperately need, or will whatever comes back fill up that bucket to the point where the savings are negligible? Is this just more chatter that’s coming up at a time of the year when NHL teams get silly and the rumours have more legs than normal? I guess we’re about to find out.

What do you guys think?

LUCIC AS AN OILER SO FAR

Season Team Lge GP G A Pts PIM +/- PGP G A Pts PIM
2016-17 Edmonton Oilers NHL 82 23 27 50 50 -3 13 2 4 6 20
2017-18 Edmonton Oilers NHL 82 10 24 34 80 -12
NHL Totals 811 192 289 481 981 114 28 42 70 179

Source: Andy Strickland, Fox Sports, 6/28/2018 – 9:06 am MST