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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Do Not Buy Out Lucic

Milan Lucic has seven goals and 28 points in his last 122 games dating back to January 1st, 2018.

With that few points and a $6 million/year cap hit, it is understandable why many wonder how much value Lucic has moving forward.

He still has four years remaining on his contract, and while many have outlined the merits of buying him out, I wouldn’t do it.

Especially after his comments yesterday.

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Lucic was invited on Sportsnet 650 in Vancouver, mainly to discuss the Vancouver Giants. Lucic was on the 2007 Memorial Cup winning Giants team and they are in the WHL final this year taking on the Prince Albert Raiders. (With my nephew playing on the Raiders, I will take them in six games.)

For most of the interview, Lucic spoke about his time with the Giants, but near the end, James Cybulski asked Lucic if he ever envisions playing for his home town Canucks.

“That’s definitely something I wouldn’t rule out. It’s obviously something that potentially could happen. Like you said, things haven’t gone that well for me here with the Oilers. Especially the last year and a half. So a new GM, new coach, which haven’t even been named yet, coming in, you don’t even know what their plan is moving forward. I remember doing an interview back in ’07 before the Mem Cup and I said it would always be a dream of mine to someday play for the Canucks. You still have that kid inside of you. You still have that dream of playing for your home town team. And like I said you never know what the future has in store and what potentially can happen,” said Lucic.

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The past 18 months have been a major struggle for Lucic. Last summer he asked for a trade, but nothing came of it. Unlike the second half of the 2018 season where Lucic looked disinterested and frustrated, this past season, despite not scoring, Lucic wasn’t a negative influence in the room. He was upbeat. He played often in the bottom six and played hard. He just didn’t produce.

Lucic answered Cybulski’s question about playing for his hometown team, but he went even further and discussed the Canucks team.

“I think the Canucks right now are a very exciting team. I love what (Vancouver GM, Benning) Jim’s done as far as building the team within through the draft and developing players. He’s done a great job of that. I think (coach Green) Travis has done a really good job as well. It’s a growing team and you never know what the future has in store for you,” he said.

That response is why I wouldn’t buy him out. He seems very open to the possibility of a trade. And I don’t believe Vancouver is the only option he’d consider.

Of course, Vancouver or any other team he’d want to play for will need the same interest, and it is difficult when he has four years remaining and a $6 million cap hit.

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Buying him out offers varying degrees of cap relief. Here is what his cap hit would be over the next four years.

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2019-20: $3,625,000
2020-21: $5,625,000
2021-22: $4,125,000
2022-23: $5,625,000

In years two and four the Oilers would save a minuscule $375,000, and replacing his roster spot with a player on a minimum salary means they’d actually pay more to not have him on the roster for those two seasons. It isn’t ideal.

Why not try to work out a trade instead of having dead cap space, or just see if Lucic can improve and be a decent 30-point player?

Lucic’s skating isn’t the issue many claim it is. He is always in good shape. His downfall right now is his pucks skills have diminished. Part of that is due to lack of confidence, but much of it, in my opinion, is because of his off-season training regime. Today’s young players spend a lot of their summer working on the ice and on skill development. They are still lifting weights and getting stronger, but their on-ice to off-ice ratio is a lot closer than it has been for players in the past.

For years players spent 90% of their summer off the ice working on strength and cardio.

Now, it is closer to a 60/40 split. Lucic admitted he needs to alter his routine.

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“I have to find the confidence again. I’ve always been a guy who’s more in the gym than on the ice, and this younger generation starts skating in June and I think that’s something I need to do,” said Lucic.

I’m actually surprised the Oilers didn’t discuss this with him last season. It was clear his puck skills needed work. I realize teams can’t tell players what to do in the off-season, but I know they send them individual specialized workout plans, so if I was the new GM I’d incorporate an on-ice component as well.

If Paul Coffey is the organization’s skills coach, why isn’t he working with players in the off-season? Set the template in the summer, when players have ample time to do it.

Many players hire their own skills coach. Darnell Nurse and Connor McDavid work with Adam Oates, but I’m surprised NHL teams don’t encourage their paid skills coach to work with players in the summer.

That is where the most gains can be made.

Ultimately it is up to Lucic. His work ethic and conditioning has never been an issue. He was sixth or seventh in testing last training camp, but skill trumps speed and conditioning in my books.

Of course you need to be in great shape to succeed in the NHL, but puck handling, passing and board work as so crucial nowadays and Lucic struggled in those areas the most the past 18 months.

A strong summer working on those skills could help him be a 30-35 point player. I recognize that isn’t the return people want on a $6 million cap hit, but it is better than 20 points.

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And I’d much rather have a 30-35 point player, instead of dead cap space of $5.625 million in two of the next four seasons.

A good summer of training, or finding a trade partner are better options than paying him to go away.

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PARTING SHOTS…

1. Lucic’s comments about his hometown made me ponder what a trade might look like. I can’t see any way the Canucks acquire him without Edmonton acquiring Loui Eriksson. They have identical cap hits, but Lucic has one more year on his deal. Eriksson has 76 points in three seasons with Vancouver, while Lucic has 104, but only 28 the past 18 months.

Would either team make this trade?

So far 46% said Oilers Yes Van No.
30% said both teams say yes.
14% had Oilers N Van Y
10% said both teams say No.

2. Brandon Manning is currently 16th on the Oilers depth chart. Good grief. The Oilers finished the season with eight D-men, and Bakersfield is dressing seven D-men each game after Evan Bouchard arrived. Manning is a healthy scratch. He has a $2.25 million cap hit for next season. I’d buy him out before Lucic. Manning’s cap hit, if bought out, is this:

2019-20: $916,667
2020-21: $666.667

The new GM will likely be cursing when he sees this situation, wondering how could Peter Chiarelli be such an inept evaluator of talent to acquire Manning and his cap hit for Drake Caggiula. I didn’t think it was possible at the time of the trade, but this deal has actually gotten worse since Chiarelli made it. Utterly embarrassing.

3. I love this quote from Justin Williams when after last night’s victory he was asked if the Carolina Hurricanes are a team of destiny.

“Destiny is not a matter of chance, it’s a matter of choice. You don’t wait for it, you achieve it. We’re not waiting around to see what happens. We’re going to try to go get it.” Love it. You don’t luck your way into winning multiple playoff rounds. You earn it and you have to believe it is possible.

4. Kelly McCrimmon is staying in Vegas. I mentioned a few weeks ago two sources told me they didn’t think McCrimmon would be the GM. They were correct. I still believe Mark Hunter is at the top of the list.

5. Fun question of the day. What contract would you give Jesse Puljujarvi? He doesn’t have arbitration rights and has 29 points in 111 games over the past two seasons.

I’d sign him for two years at $1.1-$1.25 million/year.

Recently by Jason Gregor:


  • Heschultzhescores

    Leave it to the Oilers to wake up the bear on a team in their own conference. How about waking him up right here? I’m sorry, if you watched these playoffs, Looch still has a huge purpose.

    • camdog

      What I’ve noticed in this years playoffs is a lot of guys big/small and fast/not fast that are really good at knocking pucks down with their stick/taking passes/ winning board battles. Lots of really good, skilled stick work throughout the playoff teams line ups. That’s not what I see when Lucic is on the ice or with a significant portion of the Oilers line up.

  • D

    Okay will try to post this again (my first two attempts were caught in the comment filter).

    An unpopular opinion here. I like Lucic and hope the Oilers keep him. A number of teams have overpay contracts and still remain competitive.

    Lucic can be this generation’s version of Lee Fogolin. A respected, battle-tested veteran.

    And in the playoffs, someone like Lucic can still be worth his weight in gold.

    • RJ

      His skills have eroded to the level of a 1990s goon, and they aren’t coming back. He could be the greatest glue guy in the room, he doesn’t belong on the ice.

      • Shane

        Besides I doubt glue guys and veteran leaders miss games because of bar fights, and request trades. I don’t hate the guy but you all seem to be forgetting he was the worst winger on a team that has the worst wingers.

        • Reg Dunlop

          Some of those bouncers in Calgary bars are pretty tough dudes. No disgrace getting tuned up there, although I wonder where his team mates were. Maybe they pulled a Shane Corson.

          • Shane

            I think the question is why was he in the kind of bar that requires a bouncer the night before a big game? Everyone says what a great leader he is that’s not what leaders do.

    • Heschultzhescores

      Exactly! And make him want to play here. Enough of these trade Looch articles. Sorry to tell you, but you get more from a guy who is happy than someone you keep slapping down and ragging on daily. I like Looch too…seems some people need to make a Justin Schultz every year. 90% of non performance is confidence eroding. Continually hammering on Looch does not help his performance. Looch has not been here forever a small fraction of 13 of 14 playoff busts, but I know some people that have been, and they dont wear jerseys, they wear suits.

      • Kool-Aid Man

        Oh right, poor ol’ Lucic spends his time scanning for trade articles about himself and gets very upset and as an repercussion of all the Lucic bashers, he loses his confidence. Hope he hasn’t lost his confidence in cashing big checks, that would really hinder him. Poor, poor Lucic, we should all feel sorry for him.

    • ROILYDoGG$

      You are correct. Depth guys in playoffs (3-4) lines are the ones that Win playoffs. The stars typically get checked and shutdown and put up less points come playoffs.
      We need to increase the talent and bring hungry players in (youth) to give speed and aggression in.

      • Goon

        Yeah Nathan MacKinnon and Artemi Panarin are doing nothing to help their teams win. It’s all the fourth-line plugs who got Columbus and Colorado past the first-seeds this year.

  • Heschultzhescores

    How many times do we have to watch guys underachieved here? How about we figure out why everyone does better after leaving Etown. It’s the losing culture, and the fans jumping all over our guys instead of supporting them. We have the actual non performers wearing suits and sitting at round tables laughing as they sip another Vino.

  • ROILYDoGG$

    Good god please no buyouts. Terrible use of assets and ties up money with nothing gained.
    Better off to keep Lucic and play him limited minutes on 4th pair. Cult of hockey said his possession numbers are quite good so is this the coaches fault for playing him in the wrong spot of the lineup ? Put him with players that are strong in possession and keep the speedsters on the top 3 lines.

    The use of assets by TMac and Even Hitch haven’t been the best. Line shuffling, playing players in roles they don’t belong. … it goes on.
    Does Lucic contribute on the 4th pair ? Likely.
    Do all teams have 1 bad contract , they sure do.
    Trade one of Russel($4.mill) or Sekera.($5.5mill)
    Trade manning ($2.25mill)and Rieders rights(RFA)$2 mill.
    Brodziak($1.15mill)
    You can clear 9-12 million with a combination of those players alone. Then bring in Currie, Marody, Jones to fill those spots. We now have depth in the farm and these players will push out the old guys and bad contracts.

  • RJ

    If I’m Vancouver, I notice that Lucic has one extra season and $19m in salary remaining while Eriksson has only $13m in salary left and one less season. Thanks but no thanks.

    No use in beating a dead horse. Lucic is ready for the glue factory. The sales pitch about him changing his off-season regimen after two brutal years means nothing. Pray for a CBA buy-out is all the team can do.

    • I think it’s unanimous here in Vancouver that we don’t want Lucic for many reasons unless you are willing to give us a premium asset and you take Eriksson. As hard as we are on Eriksson, we still recognize that he is still a very good two-way player and is a great part of our Swedish clique, he just isn’t putting up the points to justify his salary.

  • Spaceman Spiff

    OK, one more time…

    If you’re talking about the act of buying out a contract (i.e. verb), then you’re going to “buy out the contract.” Two words. Buy out.

    If you’re talking about giving him a “contract buyout” (i.e. noun), then it’s one word. Buyout.

  • hagar

    For question five agreed he needs to be in the low single million. I am super interested to see what his agent comes in at though because that will tell a ton about Jesse.
    If they think he is worth 3 million I would trade him asap after the first meeting without any negotiation. I get a mistrust feeling from at least his agent, and if they think Jesse is worth more than a low mill a year right now, that screams future problems.

  • ellebee

    If Lucic remains an Oiler he has to be relegated to low minutes, 4th line. He may improve but will never again perform like a $6.5 player, admit the mistake and play him like the player he is.
    Given the choice of keeping Puljujarvi for $1.25 or Kassian for $1.95, I think Kassian is the better bet.
    Kelly Mc is the new Vegas GM

  • toprightcorner

    For Lucic, I would not want Eriksson in return. Sure, the contract is 1 year shorter, but he is 4 years older, meaning his offense will be no better than Lucic. Lucic at least gives your team toughness, which still has value.

    Tough guys still get paid well, Reaves, 34, got $2.75, Martin, 29, got $2.5 and Calvert got $2.85. Only Reaves is as tough as Lucic. If Lucic was making $2 mill, any team would be happy to have him. The queston is, how do you turn Lucic into a $2 mill cap hit?

    In 2018, LVK became a middle man in a trade between OTT and PIT for Derrick Brassard to help PIT afford Brassard under the cap. there were lots of pieces traded between PIT and OTT, but the main gist is Brassard went to LVK first and they got a 4th round pick from OTT, then LVK traded Brassard and a 20 pt player in Ocar Lindberg to PIT for Reaves and they retained 40% ($2 mill x 2) of Brassards contract. It is worth knowing that Reaves was on the last year of his contract so LVK were only guaranteed a couple months of his services.

    That trade basically allowed PIT to get a player that they could not otherwise afford under their cap. It took a 4th round pick and a tough guy (Reaves) to retain $2 mill for 2 years, and they gave up a poor prospect to make an actual trade official.

    So if the Oilers retain the maximum of $3 mill on Lucic’s contract and we feel that a team would pay him $2 mill for his toughness and leadership, the Oilers need to find a partner to take at least $1 mill of the cap to help finalize a potential trade. You need a team with lots of cap space and a team that could use some players or prospects that could help them out. The other thing to remember is that Lucic is due a $3 mill bonus on July 1st, so after that, his actual salary is a lot less for next year and the way his contract is set up, the actual salary that would be paid out by the 3rd team would be a lot less than the cap hit they would obtain.

    The most obvious choice for a team is OTT. If the Oilers trade Lucic to OTT for the purposes of retaining some cap space to facilitate a trade to a 3rd team, OTT will add a full portion of the cap hit% that they keep, but pay a lot less of the actual salary becasue Lucic’s salary is less.

    Example – Lucic salary in 20-21 is $4 mill but his cap hit is $6 mill. If the Oilers keep 50%, the cap hit remaining is $3 mill but the salary paid is only $2 mill. If OTT trades Lucic and retains $1 mill (33% of $3 mill) of the cap, it only costs them $666k (33% of $2 mill). Then the 3rd team has a cap hit of $2 mill but a salary of $1.333 mill.

    There would be a number of teams out there interested in Lucic for a cap hit of $2 mill and sallary of $1.33 mill.

    The other thing to remember when comparing Lucic to Brassard is that Brassard only had 1.5 years left on his contract and Lucic has 4 years on his contract, so OTT would have to get more than a 4th from Edm and someone on an expiring contract from the 3rd team involved, or a combination of more. The cap hit is less so you could estimate at twice the value that LVK got.

    Example to VAN

    – Edmonton trades Lucic, Bear, 2019 4th and 2020 5th to OTT for a 6th or Pageau. Oilers retain 50%.
    (I say either a 6th or Pageau because it is up to OTT. They may want to dump some cap and salary for the 1 year remaining in Pageau’s contract, which is a $3.1 mill cap hit but a $3.4 mill actual salary. They may just prefer to basically give up nothing)

    – OTT trades Lucic to VAN for Derrick Pouliot and a 4th. OTT retains $1 mill cap. (VAN has too many bottom pairing dmen)

    Edmonton

    Gets – $3 mill in cap space and a 6th
    Gives up – Bear, 2019 4th and 2020 5th

    Vancouver

    Gets – Lucic with $2 mill cap hit and $1.33 actual salary
    Gives up – Pouliot and a 4th

    Ottawa

    Gets – Bear, Pouliot, 2019 4th from EDM, 2019 4th from VAN and 2020 5th from EDM
    Gives up – 2019 6th, 1 mill cap space and $666k salary.

    If Lucic was a $2 mill cap hit and $1.33 mill salary, they would trade Pouliot and a 4th for Lucic no problem

    OTT gets a very good defencman prospect in Bear that would make their team next year and an experienced bottom pairing dman who is an RFA so have some control. They also get a bunch of valuable picks for a rebuilding team. It helps them add cap to get to the floor and only costs the $666k to do it. Basically $200k per player and $80k per pick.

    Edmonton gains $3 mill in cap space, lose a good prospect in Bear but the Oilers have too many dmen and Bear has been passed on the depth chart by Persson and Bouchard so not a blow to the team. give up a couple of late round picks that are low risk. Oilers gain $3 mill to put towards a middle 6 winger.