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Photo Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Milan Lucic has cratered 5-on-5 in Edmonton

Milan Lucic’s contract was always poor. The list of big deals signed in the 2016 free-agency period is who’s who of terrible contracts.

Troy Brouwer’s already been bought out by Calgary. Lucic holds the only 50-point season of the group and even that was carried by an unsustainable year on the power play. Still, those points count but his 5-on-5 production was a concern he was trending the wrong way in year one of a giant contract.

Lucic scored a career-high 12 goals and 13 assists on the man advantage in 2016-17. Lucic’s power play points fell back to normal in 2017-18, scoring 8 points. 5-on-5 Lucic hasn’t been a difference maker in Edmonton. His 1.2 points per 60 since signing in Edmonton is the same as Joel Ward, Tyler Ennis, Alan Quine, Brendan Perlini, and Remi Elie.

Points per 60 measures a player’s production over their ice time and multiplied to 60 minutes. Top-line talent generally score around 2 points per 60, where Lucic hovered for most of his time with Boston and Los Angeles. In Edmonton, he’s scored like a third or fourth-line player 5-on-5.

Lucic’s career 5-on-5 scoring almost mirrors what you’d expect from a regular aging curve of a good NHL scorer. 2014-15 saw a dip but he recovered briefly in Los Angeles, although his 16% shooting percentage probably helped. Lucic’s aggressive decline might be a bit surprising, he’s only 30, but his body has a lot of miles on it.  He’s over 900 NHL games played, including playoffs, and a power-forward style of play doesn’t help either.

Lucic’s contract was always going to be a problem. The hope was the Oilers could get a few good years before the problem years in year four or five, but it’s arguably been that since day one. If you squint hard year one is likely the only good year the Oilers will yield from Lucic’s seven-year contract.

In some way Lucic made it clear he’d be amicable to a move from Edmonton. The Oilers did not which presented a problem: if Lucic had an even worse year moving him becomes almost impossible.

A new collective-bargaining agreement could be their way out. The NHL and the NHLPA have the option to opt out of the current CBA, which would occur expire September 2020. There’s a good chance teams will have two compliance buyouts available to them. The Oilers could simply wait two years and rid themselves of the final three years of Lucic’s contract without any cap implications. The problem is if he already looks done now, what will he look like in a year? Plus, these are Connor McDavid’s prime years and allocating $6-million to a slow, bottom-six player that can’t contribute 5-on-5 doesn’t help you win.

Lucic is on pace for 24 points. This is what he is. Similarly poor contracts have been traded, but the best option might be to lower his minutes and wait for that compliance buyout. McLellan already started that. Lucic hasn’t played over 14 minutes in the last seven games.

The Bruins have their $6-million disappointment on the fourth line. That might be where Lucic is headed. Lucic and Draisaitl were a mismatch. Lucic and Strome aren’t much better. 5-on-5 they’ve been outscored 0-3 and Strome has one point, which came 4-on-4 with Caggiula.

The Oilers need to be better when McDavid’s on the bench. They can’t give up everything he creates when the other three lines are out. Lucic hasn’t helped. A stint on the fourth line should be next.

      • Ty Guy

        Someone needs to…see that stick explode in practice? maybe someone did? I would take the punch (and likely be in the hospital for 2 weeks) if it got him off this team.

        how about we make him eat beets every game he doesn’t get a point or is a minus?

      • Coach Rick

        Really….if Milan caused havoc on the ice and lit a few guys up every night. Edmonton fans would love him! Got nothing to do with telling him to his face he sucks. He does suck and as a season ticket holder I am paying my share of that 6 million. So Milan clean up your attitude, be a great team player and we can all live with 20 points a year!

  • Soccer Steve

    Okposo: Tim Murray GM – status: fired
    Ladd: Garth Snow GM – status: fired
    Eriksson: Jim Benning GM – status: working
    Nielsen/Helm: Ken Holland GM – status: working
    Backes: Don Sweeney GM – status: working
    Brouwer: Brad Treliving GM – status: working

    This tells me nothing and took me 7 minutes that I’ll never get back. Enjoy.

    • puckle-head

      I think it says a lot actually. It says NHL GMs are far more incompetent on average than most fans realize. Why else could these 30+ year olds continue to command these huge contracts? Look at that list; not only are all of those contracts looking terrible, they looked terrible to most observers the very second they were inked.

  • Muleman84

    What about playing him with McDavid? You know McD will continue to create chances and opportunities and if you have Lucic on his line with Rattie, who can finish well, you get something better I think. Since McD carries the puck into the zone more often than not, no need for him to be fast on the forecheck, but when it goes to the boards, Lucic should be good at that, and along with Rattie who goes to the right places to score, you could have a decent line. Only problem I see is the defensive side of the equation. Ummm??

    • Taylor_Hall's_Ghost

      He was tried with McDavid a tonne last year. How many passes to the slot did McDavid make to know one became Lucic was so far behind the play. Not to mention he spent all last year, and the first 14 games of this year on the 1st PP with McDavid, and he still can’t score. The answer is not McDavid. Please GOD keep him off McDavid’s line!

  • Peksisarvinen

    I sort of feel bad for the guy. Then I remember he’s a multi-millionaire with the best of job in the world, and I stop feeling bad, and start feeling pissed off again.

  • russ99a

    Nobody is taking Lucic unless we take an equally suspect player with bad contract in return.

    The issue IMO is the lack of any kind of scoring presence at C (Draisaitl was ice cold at the time) and RW on his lines. I hope Rattie makes a difference tonight.

  • McLellan needs to tell Lucic to quit handling the puck over the blue line, be the trailing forward, and if the other centreman and winger cross the line into the zone, to look for him or a defensemen. If Lucic doesn’t get the pass, he should continue to go to the net, park himself, cause havoc, screen and look for a tip from a d-man slapshot.

    Some may say easier said than done, but what else has he got left to do?

  • Taylor_Hall's_Ghost

    He was tried with McDavid a tonne last year. How many passes to the slot did McDavid make to know one became Lucic was so far behind the play. Not to mention he spent all last year, and the first 14 games of this year on the 1st PP with McDavid, and he still can’t score. The answer is not McDavid. Please GOD keep him off McDavid’s line!

  • Serious Gord

    I think in time the year lucic signed will be seen as peak F A. Baseball clearly has passed it this off season. Analytics now expose old slow players for what they are.

  • Theo

    I like Lucic’s game this season. His effort has been good and he has had a positive impact on the game in other ways then scoring. I don’t mind his contract, I don’t think its easy to lure top end players to Edmonton so Chiarelli paid what he had to to get him. If you all remember everyone thought Edmonton needed to get tougher so Chiarelli went out and signed the toughest power forward in the league. There are definitely issues with the team but Lucic is far from the biggest problem.

  • Bills Bills

    I will take Lucic on my team any day. I may not like his price point and I don’t think he should be relied upon as a point producer. But he can skate, hit and put the fear of God into 98% of the rest of the league. Trading him for pennies and retaining money is a bad idea.