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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

How can the Oilers get rid of Milan Lucic’s contract?

The Edmonton Oilers could put Milan Lucic’s $6-million cap hit to better use. Lucic has 11 points in his last 74 games. He’s on pace for 15 points this season.

There were strong indications Lucic’s camp asked for a trade last season. I thought if you could move Lucic without retaining salary or giving up a really good asset, you’d be crazy not to. Sure, he might have returned to a 40-point player, but Lucic’s 5-on-5 production has dropped off significantly as an Oiler. He’d still be overpaid as a 40-point forward.

What can the Oilers do now that he’s on an even worse pace than his 34-point season last year?

Buyout

A buyout is the least preferable option. Lucic’s contract is loaded with signing bonuses making a buyout less enticing.

Season Savings Cap Hit
2019-20 $2,375,000 $3,625,000
2020-21 $375,000 $5,625,000
2021-22 $1,875,000 $4,125,000
2022-23 $375,000 $5,625,000
2023-24 -$625,000 $625,000
2024-25 -$625,000 $625,000
2025-26 -$625,000 $625,000
2026-27 -$625,000 $625,000

The Oilers gain immediate savings next season with a Lucic buyout, but years two and four offer almost no difference. There’s an argument (paywall) they should still do it. If Lucic is a 10-20-point guy going forward, you can find those players on professional tryouts every September. Lucic holds a no-move clause so he can’t be placed on waivers or traded without his permission.

It ends a bad situation, but with minimal cap relief.

Trade

NHL teams keep letting other NHL teams off the hook for signing terrible contracts. The Leafs traded David Clarkson and Dion Phaneuf without retaining salary. Amusingly, Phil Kessel was the one contract they did retain on and he’s easily the best player they traded. Phaneuf’s been traded again to Los Angeles for the injured Marian Gaborik and his similarly awful contract.

I wonder if there’s a move where the Oilers take another poor contract back and buy out that contract out for a reduced cap hit. Karl Alzner is in the minors. Alzner has three more years at $4.625 million left after this season. Buying out Alzner is more manageable than buying out Lucic. There’s a big spike in year two, similar with a Lucic buyout, otherwise it’s four years of $1.069 million with a $2.194 million year in between.

A Phaneuf buyout is workable too.

Trading Phaneuf, both times, and Clarkson meant taking Marian Gaborik and Nathan Horton’s contracts back respectively. Toronto traded Phaneuf to Ottawa for a bunch of overpaid guys with short term left on their contracts. I’m skeptical a similar deal exists for Lucic, as the Leafs pumped up Phaneuf’s value before trading him, but maybe there’s an old-school general manager that still values Lucic.

Compliance Buyout

The most popular option is simply waiting two years for the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and hoping for a compliance buyout, which would rid the Oilers of the last three years of Lucic’s contract with zero cap penalties.

But there is no guarantee that compliance buyouts will come with a new CBA and that requires holding onto a significantly declining player during McDavid’s prime years.

Seattle

Email sent from: “Grant, Rob” rgrant@thestar.ca Subject: gettychiarelli Date: 12 April, 2015 8:14:40 PM EDT Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 25: General Manager of the Boston Bruins Peter Chiarelli attends the 2010 NHL Entry Draft at Staples Center on June 25, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Seattle is another popular option, but that would require two things: Lucic waiving his no-move clause and the Oilers sending significant assets to Seattle to take Lucic.

The New York Islanders and Columbus Blue Jackets had to yield a first and second-round pick for Vegas to take their bad contracts in Mikhail Grabovski and David Clarkson, but they were basically retired due to injuries.

What would Edmonton have to package with their 20-point winger who doesn’t look headed for injured reserve anytime soon? Lucic hasn’t missed more than three games a season since 2009-10, his third year in the NHL.

Seattle wants to be competitive and that’s not surprising with Vegas’ success. Adding an expensive fourth-line winger who doesn’t skate particularly well feels contrary to that goal.

Moving Lucic will be extremely difficult. It’s clear the Oilers should have traded Lucic last summer if there was any deal that returned a player with a lesser cap hit or term.

Lucic’s contract remains one of Chiarelli’s biggest mistakes in his time as Oilers general manager. Moving Lucic will be a mighty task for Chiarelli’s successor.

  • TKB2677

    Let’s just eliminate Seattle. They are going to be playing in the 2021-2022 season. So that means the expansion draft is at the end of June 2021. If you are going to wait that long for Seattle to maybe take him if you give them a ridiculous sweetener, why not just buy him out then. He’d have 2 more years gone, so it’s on the books for less time and you’d get slightly better cap savings. Not a lot but better. Plus why on earth would Seattle take him even with a sweetener? Chances are he’s going to be worse and the league will be that much faster.

    A trade, I don’t see it. Not unless you are taking back something equally as bad. Plus unless he’s lying, sounds like McDavid likes Lucic and sees some value in him. I would much rather have a crappy player with a lousy contract that McDavid likes as a guy and thinks does something good vs roll the dice on another crappy player with a lousy contract and have him piss off McDavid.

    Compliance buyout I don’t see happening. I don’t think the players are dumb enough to want another lock up. The cap keeps going up. Salaries are skyrocketing. Not much they can complain about.

    I think the option is to just buy him out. You don’t get much savings BUT you free up the roster spot. Like it or not, it is really, really hard to just sit a 6 mill player and if all he is now is a 4th liner, you can get those guys for league minimum which is basically your savings.

  • Rama Lama

    When I read articles like this……..I wish someone could take away PC’s keys. IMHO, it is not Milan Lucic that is the problem with the Oilers. I’m not saying he is the solution either…….what we need is to find a winger who can process the game similar to Connor McDavid. There are players out there say like Jeff Skinner, who were available and could have helped this team.

    After we find a solid winger ( not named Leon) we need a puck moving defenceman. Sorry PC Chris Wideman is NOT going to cut it!

  • McHitch

    Trade him and retain about 2 mil of his cap hit.

    The new team taking him will get a 4 mil cap hit but only have to pay Lucic around 2 million in real cash. Lucic is a 1-2 million dollar player so it could work.

  • Derian Hatcher

    1) Is he worth the contract? No
    2) Is he the main reason that 97 is not getting scrummed and face washed the way Nuge, Ebs and Hall did? I believe so – your results may vary.
    3) If he were gone, would McD suffer more abuse than he already does? Yes
    4) Would the comment section be full of “Chia has to get someone to protect Conner? Ummm yes.

    He serves a very important role – he is vastly overpaid for it, but as protector of the most valuable asset…I like him on the team.

    • CMG30

      The Lucic signing has been a boat anchor for this team since day one. The fact that so many people are still defending this player goes to show that folks have a very difficult time separating who Milan Lucic was in his prime vs the player he is today. I’m not opposed to having the enforcer type on a roster but they have to be able to contribute at a rate equal to their cost in both salary and spot on the roster. Going forward, PC needs to give Lucic’s agent permission to talk to other teams in the off chance that his reputation can still find him a spot. More likely the next GM is going to have to trade his bad contract for another that’s not quite as bad then try to trade poor contract for yet another that marginally better and so on in order to dig out of this hole.

      Milan Lucic will find himself in the hockey hall of fame one day but that will be on the strength of his time in Boston. Expecting that level of performance today is both unrealistic and unfair to the player.

      • TKB2677

        I personally do not think people are “defending” Lucic. It’s not a good signing. He’s here. His contract sucks. He’s not going anywhere. The team has to put him in a role where he can at least contribute something. You are NEVER going to get full value for him. Everyone knows it, know one likes the contract but what good does constantly complaining about it do?

    • OilerFaithful.Always

      Couldn’t agree more. He’s overpaid but isn’t without his upside. He is a big stronger intimidating tough player. He is not just taking it lying down, from what I hear he pushes himself to be better and change his game from what it was that made him successful when big strong players were what the gms looked for when crashing and banging used to be how team were built (Lucic, Bertuzzi, Chara, Shanahan, Tkachuck, Nash, Lindros, just to name a few) the game is different now and he’s had a hard time adjusting his game and being successful. He’s a smart guy and he’s won a cup. He’s a vocal guy in the locker room and most likely gives his team a kick in the butt or a pep talk for a morale boost now and again. He’s tremendously overpaid but you never know he could get a couple in a short span regain his confidence and go on a hot streak. Wishful thinking I know but I’m in aggreance he’s not useless.

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    Should have seen this coming with his consistent decline in 5 on 5 production before we signed him.

    What a mess Chia has gotten us into. It wasn’t worth the one playoff appearance. Should have been patient.

  • Heschultzhescores

    It’s not Looch’s fault the league has become a non contact, non fighting league where he is surrounded by turtles, gazelles and whistle happy zebras.

  • ITSHAPPENING

    Considering everything, the bottom line is that for the foreseeable future, the Oilers are locked in regarding not just Lucic, but the the team as a whole, which, as we are clearly seeing, is mediocre at best. This is a failure of epic proportions and a crime against McDavid. Call me crazy, and trash away if you’d like, but how long does this go on before McDavid says that he’s had enough?? Personally, I wouldn’t blame him in the least, as much as I DON’T want it to ever happen

  • FlamesFan27

    Most teams have similar contracts. Calgary did the same thing with James Neal. Very similar situations, where you knew the contract was going to be bad at the end, but you thought there were 2-3 good years at the start of it.

  • JariCurry

    I like him on the team. More scoring would be great, and it will come in the playoffs. He seems to be skating better now and back checking hard. Could be a little more physical, but hard to sustain that all season. He will ramp it up in the second half. He isn’t Mcdavid’s winger we are looking for, and we can’t blame him for that. Many players have failed at the same job. He just needs to find that killer instinct in front of the net again.

  • toprightcorner

    If the Oilers trade him after July 1, 2019, they will pay his $3 mill signing bonus. That means the actual dollars paid by his new team would be as as follows:

    2019/20 – $3 mill
    2020/21 – $4 mill
    2021/22 – $5 mill
    2022/23 – $4 mill

    There are teams that have lots of cap space that could easily fit that in, OTT is likely going to be a team that will need to get to the cap floor as I doubt Duchene or Stone will resign there this summer. This gives OTT a big cap hit with minimal cash outlay.

    The Oilers could even absorb $1 mill of the cap and that means OTT only pays $3 mill a year.

    Lucic obviously has to approve that trade, and unlikely he would, unless he doesn’t want to deal with the pressures of failing in Edmonton.

    • McHitch

      If we absorb 2 mil of the salary/cap hit – Lucic becomes tradeable. 4 mil cap hit with this salary structure could be appealing to a team trying to hit the cap floor.

      2019/20 – $1 mill
      2020/21 – $2 mill
      2021/22 – $3 mill
      2022/23 – $2 mill

  • toprightcorner

    The other possibility is if the Oilers can work out a 3 way deal where they trade Lucic and a pick/prospect to team A for a not so great contract and keep $1 mill of Lucic contract. Team A then trades Lucic to team B for a pick/prospect and team A pays $1 mill.

    Team B gets Lucic and pays an average of $2.5 mill but has a larger cap hit. Team A gets a decent prospect that they feel is worth paying $1 mill to get (2nd/Hebig) and gets a bit of relief from a player they don’t want that is making around $2 mill.

    Oilers get a guy who is overpaid but can still fill a depth forward at the same production as Lucic. In the end, they get the same production as Lucic and could save $3 mill a year. This ends up costing the Oilers a pick/prospect to save $3 mill in cap space. This is obviously not the best result, but might be the only logical way to get some cap relief. $3 mill added to the potential increase of $4 mill in the cap could allow the Oilers to add a quality scoring winger like Simmonds, Silvferberg or Nyquist.

  • Alligatorlover

    We are all tearing Chiarelli a new one and rightfully so. But, at the time he was signed, Edmonton was building a bigger, stronger team to compete against the Pacific. He did that with guys like Looch, Maroon, Pouliot, etc. Then, in a very short period of time, the league shifted to a faster, younger look on most teams. Lucic has a style that is not ineffective, but incompatible with the direction of the team. Regardless, when I look at this roster after three years of Pete, it astounds me how he could not leverage Hall and Eberle into at least one effective NHL winger. I, for one, am so tired of the Oilers testing out unknown players, reclamation projects or NHL players on the low end of salary, due to cap constraints. The bottom six is pretty decent, but the wingers in the top six are simply not good enough.

  • BobbyCanuck

    You guys watch last nights game? That my friends is what is called Play-off hockey, you don’t win those type of games without players like Looch.

    Yes the league may be moving towards speed and skill, but that is during the regular season. Been watching hockey for long? Ever watched the play-offs? If you answered no, and no, than I guess that would be why you are all for getting rid of Lucic.

    Did you watch the Eastern Conference Final? Did not think so, for if you did, you would have noticed the small speedy highly skilled team called Tampa Bay, get rag dolled with impunity from the much bigger and tougher Washington team.

    The refs put away the whistle, and let the boys sort things out on the ice, that’s what happens in the play-offs. Take a wild guess at which Oiler is especially good at ‘sorting’ out opposing players

      • BobbyCanuck

        ha ha! Good one, actually in 1992 I stopped being exclusively an Oilers fan, and started following some other teams, saved me sanity I say.

        Back then during the play-offs got into a yelling match with some leaf fans, as I walked into the lounge, slipped the waitress$10 to switch the channel from the Leafs game to Pittsburgh, she switched the channel just as Don Cherry ( he was very popular back then) was coming on and all these guys lost it on the waitress, I told them to go home and watch the game on peasant vision, waitress just ignored them. Good times I tell you

  • Heschultzhescores

    It was never Looch’s job to get us to the playoffs. As I recall when he came here they touted him as a guy who raises his game during the playoffs. Now the trick is to get him into the playoffs with the team we have assembled.

  • Kneedroptalbot

    When the Oilers finally reset, without Chirelli, Lucic and Kassian, they will be worth watching again.
    In the mean time…wait for the (not bounce back) GONG.

  • Total Points

    Keep him and play him on the checking line. Every team has one bad contract. I would sooner have a bad contract with someone who is tough than a bad contract with someone who is suppose to score and doesn’t.

    • MrBung

      Lucic was given a big part of his contract because of point production. Problem is that he also drags down the offence for the others on his line. Black hole.