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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.

  • 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.

    • The Plan

      I think the only way they would get a compliance buyout is if the salary cap goes down. I can’t see that happening again…and if it did would we really be further ahead? Unless you just flat out hate Looch and want him off the team at any expense.

      • Dapper Dan 3099

        I think there will be compliance buyouts again, the owner will want them to get rid of bad contracts, and the players don’t care, they will still get paid and will get a chance to sign a new contract on top of that

      • toprightcorner

        There will definitely be compliance buyouts in the next CBA. Owners will insist on it. In fact, I could see the NHL giving the players something in order to get 1 compliance buyout every 2-3 years or get 1 buyout every 2 years where they only take on half the cap hit.

  • Oil9744

    It’s a shame it got to this point so fast with Lucic, I remember for years this was the player that Edmonton fans wanted here and when we finally got him and he’s just beyond BRUTAL in every aspect, no points, no heart, nothing. He doesn’t have ONE fight under his belt this season yet and we are almost 30 games in to the season, even when guys start roughing up our star guys he doesn’t care, last night Bortuzzo was basically throwing around Draisaital and Nuge, giving them shots in the head and cross checks all over the ice even when Looch was on the same shift and he didn’t do anything, not the first time I seen him do that at all either. Good points on breaking everything down on how to go about getting rid of him cause at this point I’d take anything to get rid of him. ANYTHING.

  • KennyG

    I’d sit him for 5-10 games and see if he’s missed. (Won’t). Then buy him out and move on. If there was a team that wanted him for 2-3mill I’d go that way first and retain whatever is owing. Oh ya fire PC also.

    • Beer

      1st. You don’t like his 6mil contract, and your solution is to put that contract in the press box.
      2nd. The players in the line-up “Will” miss him.
      3rd. Buying him out still cost a lot of cash. He doesn’t help on the score sheet much, but their not losing games because him either.
      4th. Are you that team that might “want him”?

  • Spydyr

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

    It will be next to impossible but some of us seen this coming even before Lucic signed here.

    Spydyr 2 years ago TRASH IT! 18 CHEERS 62

    Six years for Lucic is too long I would much prefer four but I doubt that gets it done. Tough choice but if they insist on six I would pass. Perhaps a compromise on five years?

    • oildawg99

      ** Pats Spyder’s head** ” you are such a good boy ” ” you should be GM ” ” you are so amazingly smart”

      There, is that the validation you are looking for?

    • I would start with a call to head office and inquire about borrowing Hossa’s uniform to contract a strange skin disease. Also why other teams get to use mutual termination of contract, the most recent being Tomas Plekanec. Or , like every other team, why do we not get to just send him and the bad contract to the Coyotes? Toronto got an exemption with Lupul as well. So apparently these options are available to all teams in the US and large Canadian markets. I would be telling head office that we put up with the obvious bias in the officiating that slants the ice, and now again , we have different rules for different franchises again tilting the ice in favor of Bettmans pet projects.

  • rivid

    You’re kidding yourself if you think Lucic will get better. What you see is what you get. If we were paying him 2 million then no one would be complaining (much). With that said, this summer is the oilers need to rid them selves of this contract. They can’t wait 2/3 years carrying a dead weighted contract. Buy him out, trade an asset plus pick but this team absolutely needs to be freed of this contract. If none of that works then just pay him to stay home and use his spot with a player who might be able to make a pass, take a pass or even score. Its a shame that this player has absolutely no value in the NHL and longer.

    • AtlanticOil

      I’m not sure if you’re stupid or just trolling but let’s go through all of your idiotic suggestions:

      1) Mutual Contract Termination

      The key word is MUTUAL.This would require Lucic to collude with ownership and not act in his own best interest. Lucic would have to be willing to walk away from $19 million. Say what you want but you’re a clown if you think he should do this, regardless of where his performance is. That’s security for his kids and family. That comes first.

      2) Trade to Coyotes – Ugh, first of all the Yotes have to agree to that. They and some other teams may be looking for creative ways to reach the cap floor but Looch’s contract is probably not it. Maybe after he gets his bonus this summer and the difference between cap hit and actual $$ becomes larger.

      Oh yeah one other thing. HE HAS A FULL NMC AND WOULD HAVE TO APPROVE THE DEAL.

      3) Contract Exemption ala Lupul – Lupul was not able to pass a physical and was on season opening injured reserve. Lucic would have to be severely and essentially permanently injured to utilize that.

      You are insane if you think there is actual collusion in any aspect of this sport.

      • Point 1) He has millions already, pretty sure he and his family will not starve.
        Point 2) Coyotes routinely take on bad contracts plus contracts for players that cannot even play anymore.Many examples of this , easy to find the info.
        Point 3) Lupul stated quite clearly that he was good to go. Team doctors disagreed. Who know’s their own body better, and which party gets the benefit? Obvious answer.
        If you think there is no collusion to keep Canadian Franchises out of the Cup Finals by any means necessary, (obvious biased officiating, different rules for different franchises depending on geographical location), you have not been paying attention. It is not a coincidence that the Cup has not been won by a Canadian franchise ever since Bettman was put in charge.
        You can choose to believe the propaganda if you wish, I would say you have rose colored blinders on.

  • 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?

  • Serious Gord

    Seattle and compliance both are two seasons away. So buyout and trade (taking back a bad player/contract) are the only options that get him gone for the start of next year.

  • 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.

  • TrentonL

    I was thinking about this yesterday and looking through capfriendly, I don’t think there is a single contract worse in the entire league than Lucic’s. The only way out is retaining salary in trade to a cap floor team or the compliance buyout.

  • 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.

  • Hemmercules

    Trade and retain salary. Probably cheaper than a buyout. Or if he’s still around at the expansion work a deal so they select him. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind Seattle and would probably go for it. By then he will likely still be playing so they still get a usable player, unlike Clarkson when he was traded.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Datsyukian

    Why cannot Lucic acknowledge that he is not the player he used to be and offer to revise his contract at a lower amount – say, at $4M? What happened to people’s integrity? It’s not like $4M is not enough for him to buy food and pay his mortgage (unless hockey players just buy houses for cash…)

    • hagar

      Not many people live on tegrity farms when it comes to money. He managed to sign a carreer ending awesome contract, and now it is what it is. I wouldnt give money back if i might not have a job for 50 years.
      It would make more sense if teams could have a performance clause, not the players fault for getting max money, but it can be their faults for not performing.

    • Dapper Dan 3099

      would you give up lets say 20k of your salary, for “integrity reasons”, because im sure you will still make enough to survive, and you know there are people in third world countries that make pennies a day and eat scraps…. c’mon man!

      • Datsyukian

        Okay, I was obviously (or not?) being somewhat facetious here. But this raises a larger issue: shouldn’t professional sports contracts have some performance targets, with salary/contract extension tied to them? It seems like players get a free ride – they get the money and then they can just sit back, laugh and continue collecting the same paycheque even if their game drops off exponentially. If a team owner can fire his GM (just like any business owner can fire their employees), why cannot they “fire” an under-performing player? Why is there nothing in the contract that says that the GM can get out of contract with a player if there is a significant drop in his performance? How does it not make sense?

        • Dapper Dan 3099

          I totally agree, but the players will never agree to this. I would like if they maybe did something similar to the NFL and only guarantee a certain amount of money on the contract. Then if you don’t perform, they just release you.

    • Sparky Blue

      There is probably something in the CBA that would disallow such an action by a member/player. Otherwise we would have seen some smooth talking lawyer bamboozle some player out of his contract by now. As to Lucic the idea of trading him for Gagner and taking back the money difference is interesting, at least he can score a bit.

    • jesse says yep

      Yeah, Im pretty sure that this is not allowed under the CBA and even if it was, I cant imagine a situation where the NHLPA would support this. It would open the door for teams to pressure other players to do likewise. The NHL has guaranteed contracts so the players don’t have to worry about stuff like this

    • Odanada

      Offer him a contract renegotiation with a promise to hire him post career as a “consultant”. Katz is still on the hook for the dough, but it helps the team’s prospects.

  • Dapper Dan 3099

    People also need to remember that he may have good leadership qualities, and lets call it an intimidation factor, or maybe someone like McDavid likes having him as a team mate I dunno…. yes I know that doesn’t justify his contract, but a trade is very unlikely now…. he also pretty much gets to decide where he wants to go…. so a team can actually offer to take his contract and an asset for a draft pick, but I f Lucic doesn’t wanna go there, then there is no deal….. and if I can remember correctly, I thought I heard something last summer about him not wanting to play for a Canadian market again (maybe someone can confirm)

  • JimmyV1965

    I really think Lucic needs to be off the active roster starting next season. I don’t think it’s good for morale to have a player this bad on the roster for four years, let alone seven. If we can’t trade him or buy him out, make him a permanent healthy scratch.

  • 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.

  • wiseguy

    Why does everyone think this team has a salary cap problem? It doesn’t. We have spent to the cap or close to it for years and the team is not competitive. In fact the best moves were made when there was whale to chase this past summer. Look at every transaction the team has made that has added a larger salary – non of them have been the answer to making the team a top tier team. We are also not like Toronto or Winnipeg where young superstars are performing so well that we need to sign them for big $$ or lose them. Puljujarvi, Nurse, Yamo, etc. will not have quite manageable contracts when they come up especially with Sekera and Russell being replaced maybe by Jones and Bouchard.

  • camdog

    They can’t. Time to move on with the Lucic talk. It is what is, ramping up Oiler fans just makes things worse, just like with Justin Schultz. Henderson was good on that one. At least the Russell storylines have stopped for this season. Lucic is what Lucic is, his price point and all. The only hope is the cap goes up and Oilers actually develop some cheap players through the draft.

    So if we stop rallying against Lucic, then I guess we’ll have to move on to Sekera. Until we get rid of the guy signing the UFA’s and making the trades there’s no point in worrying about under performing players.

  • Spaceman Spiff

    I also wonder if Seattle wouldn’t be a possibility given that Lucic is from Vancouver and it’d be pretty close to home for him. Of course, they’d have to either get the Kraken or the Totems or the Space Needles or whatever to take him or trade for him, but the devil’s in the details.

  • GK1980

    Yeah. 2 goals in like 70 games is not good enough and the drought looks like it will continue. Imagine who the Oil could have signed for $7 mil a year. yeah…..