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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.

  • 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.

  • Rouquer

    Are we really writing about Lucic again? Yeah his 6 mil is an eye sore but let’s just stop…please. Is there really literally nothing else to write about? Like I’d like to know what hitch’s system is like, what the players think. Can you write about that, if there’s really nothing else?

    • Rebuild3.0

      ya cant imagine why anyone would be concerned about a guy that’s making $6 million that’s on pace for 17 points. learn how the salary cap works genius

      • Towers-of-dub

        so what? fortunately a player comes along once in a while, signs a PTO and puts up some scoring for 650k. things balance out. You’re not paying Lucic, so there’s no emotional or financial toll on you.

  • 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.

  • Abagofpucks

    No trade clauses should be illegal, after all this is big business and franchise owner’s should be smarter than this. Any company that has asset’s they can’t move out if they need too is a pure detriment to their operation.

    • jesse says yep

      I often wonder what the players gave up to get the NTC\NMC? They are hindering the majority of teams in the NHL and it is impossible to sign a free agent or sign a player long term without attaching one or the other. To me this is one thing that the owners need to fix in the next CBA. I get it that the players like the certainty but making millions of dollars in their careers should be certainty enough IMO. Especially considering that they also have the added certainty of guaranteed contracts

      • Serious Gord

        There is no way the players are giving up this without massive monetary compensation (read: a higher share of league revenues).

        It may cause managers and fans great annoyance but these clauses don’t cost the owners much of anything so they won’t push for it.

  • Flint

    I can’t see the logic behind a buyout. The worst player playing in the league full time is paid at least 650k… let’s say your typical fourth line brawler. 625k x four years is 2.6million.

    Buying out Lucic saves you a total of 2.5 million, but costs you a roster spot which would need to be filled by at least 2.6 million. I don’t think Lucic is so bad he worse than a brawler on a league min. contract. Those savings above aren’t absolute, you’d still have to fill his roster spot and that has a cost, even if you consider Lucic is only providing league min value right now.

    I think you gotta play it out and hope. He’s still tough as nails. Otherwise you’re playing more money to have no Lucic and who knows Brad Malone? in his place.

  • Old school

    Ok we all get it – terrible contract . One of the worst but l would argue Calgary has a bigger issue with Neil ..a goal scorer who can’t score goals is like a fireman without an axe or a hose . Lucic brings other tangibles .. watch the opposing defence going to retrieve pucks knowing Lucic is bearing down – they’re anxious.. He is a presence and as long as he gives a full effort which l am seeing he can add value especially playing for a coach like Hitch that will play to his strength and deploy him properly. I like their line. It’s clear they can’t finish but they can eat minutes and wear down the competition .. they are especially effective when we at leading less so when we are behind . That line and Lucic are built for the playoffs if we can get there. There are far bigger issues on this team right now – l would say the total lack of progress of Nurse for one .

    • BringtheFire 2.0

      Except we don’t have a bigger issue because we’re winning and scoring. We got nine against Columbus. We’re tops in the Pacific with cheap young talent locked up for years. And Neal is totally tradeable in case the worst happens and Tre is more than competent enough to pull off savvy trades (and has a proven track record on that), so no, no issue at all.

      In Calgary we’ve learned that depth solves bad contract “issues” .

      • FlamesFan27

        You make a good point about Calgary’s depth, so Neal not scoring doesn’t hurt as much. But, that doesn’t mean Neal’s contract is not terrible. It doesn’t have the NMC that Lucic’s does, but I don’t think that means a lot, as I think Lucic would agree to move if he gets to go to a better team (which is almost anywhere).

        • BringtheFire 2.0

          Oh no, Neal’s contract is looking horrible, I agree. But yeah, we can move it. All the same, though, I still believe that a competent GM and ownership group could bring the Oil back to consistent respectability in two or three seasons. Looch or no Looch.

  • Dave2

    A lot of hindsight when it comes to Lucic here on ON. Most everyone , including Gregor, thought the signing was OK at the time. He was an asset during the playoff run.

    • OilersBro

      Lucic is an asset when used in the right context. Powerplay? Maybe not. But last night I noticed Lucic & Kassian always following the powerplay. Even if the powerplay was trash, they would wear down the other team. They penalty killers were tired and to go play against a possession line that hits hard is extremely difficult.

      • The future never comes

        This is more philosophical but could one be considered an asset at 6 million when they will finish on the fourth line with under 10 points in a season? I’m not sure that should be described as an asset.

        • Big Nuggets

          An in game asset but not an asset in terms of cap management or building a deep roster. He’s still a good 4th liner. Far from ideal but what can you do. If the cap goes up again he might be tradeable for another poor contract. Which bad contract would you trade him for? Okposo maybe? Alzner and then buy out that contract I guess. I assume if there is another compliance buyout you can use it to wipe off the books a previously bought out contract instead of a roster player?

  • 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.

  • FanBoy

    I think we give him this year as his last straw and personally I would try and trade him for a worst player with less term 1 for 1. Or I would wait until after the new CBA and wait for a compliance buyout. Worst case scenario, I would buy him out right before the expansion draft because it lessens the term of his remaining cap hit on our salary cap.

    The thing I hate is us giving up more picks just to get rid of Looch. And I would also hate retention on our cap. Benoit Pouliot and Eric Gryba are still being paid by the Oilers a combined 1.6M until next year. Consider this, had Chiarelli added more picks/retained picks from all his bad trades, they wouldn’t be terrible. For example:

    Hall for Larsson + 2nd Rnd Pick
    Eberle for Strome + 2nd Rnd Pick
    McLellan = 3rd Rnd Pick
    Chiarelli = 2nd Rnd Pick
    Reinhart = 1st and 2nd Rnd Pick

    That’s 5 picks within the Top 60 in the last 3 years that we’ve missed out on and our depth is still not good enough.

    So I wouldn’t trade any other assets just to get Lucic off the team. I would scratch him and keep the 23rd man on the roster so he has no impact on the ice if worst comes to worst.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • tkfisher

    Option 3. Let the player save face. Instead of making him ride out his career (a good career) for the money by playing 4th line slug minutes, lightly suggest LTIR. Maybe Lucic comes down with a “hip” , “issue” , or a HOSSA rash. I hear that is so dangerous to aging players.

  • Beer

    What’s the plan for replacing the “I’ll bust your face” part of his game? I am guessing your part of the “We could have kept Eb’s” crowd. The truth is that Lucic was signed for more than just offense. He scares and pounds opposition players. Does anyone honestly think the officiating will protect our players better than Lucic’s presence? The cap hit and term are not ideal, but that’s what it took to have him fighting for us, and not against us.

  • The future never comes

    Seattle would never take him, so cross of that option. Right now he is the 12th forward, quite clearly this should be his last year in the NHL if he did not have that contract. He is on pace for 15 but it will be less as the new “identity” line could not score if their life depended on it. He will probably end with under 10 points. Name an “old school GM” who values body checking for 6 million – so cross that off of the list too.

  • Towers-of-dub

    these articles are so mindless. There’s no market for a $6MM guy whose hands have turned to stone. How many GM’s out there are really craving the inability to shoot, pass or stickhandle for $6MM/yr. If he’s really the liability everyone thinks he is, just buy him out. It costs a bit less, but the main thing is he wouldn’t be on the ice, or on the team. Who cares what the cap is at this point. There’s 2 years of minimal savings but the rest of the time it frees up more space. I don’t know why so many people on here, writers and posters alike, are so hung up on Daryl Katz’s financial obligations. So what if there’s $5MM in dead space for a season? There’s $6MM in dead space for another 4 seasons if you hang on to Lucic. Any talk of trading him just exposes more ignorance and stupidity. It’s almost as if the implication is that only the people who post on ON know how much Lucic ability has dropped off a cliff in the past year. Suggests that everyone else in the NHL has no idea what’s happening in Edmonton, and they’ll happily make the Oilers better by giving them cap space and getting Lucic off the team.

  • 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.