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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:


  • 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.

  • bazmagoo

    Lucic plus #8 pick at draft for Eriksson and #10 pick – Oilers retain 1/4 of Lucic’s remaining salary

    That’s a potentially fair deal for both teams.

    • Dan 1919

      Then the Oilers end up with hardly any cap savings and a lower draft pick. To me that sounds like just a flat out win for Van, basically juggling around a bad contract and ending up with a better pick. The Oilers wouldn’t be trading “for” Eriksson, they’d be exchanging a bad contract with Van in hopes of a change in scenery being beneficial. If Van didn’t want to go straight across I’d be real hesitant, but maybe consider either retained salary OR exchanging picks… but definitely not both.

      • RJ

        I made a comment earlier that does bear repeating; the Canucks would be stuck with Lucic for one extra season, and pay $5 or $6m more in real salary.

        Eriksson also played 3rd line while most of us think Lucic is a 4th liner based on his last two seasons.

        Do the Canucks want a steadily eroding player for millions more, for longer and be forced to protect him in the expansion draft straight across for Erickson?

    • ROILYDoGG$

      Lucic brings more to the table including hits and possession then L Errk , plus Louis is older. And puts up the same points. That’s a trade loss for us again. Better off keeping him and dumping other assets

    • Jason Gregor

      So the Oilers ADD $1.5 million in cap space, drop two spots in draft, just so they get out of Lucic contract one year early. That reads like a Chiarelli trade. One the Oilers clearly lose. No way that should happen from an Edm perspective.

      • Goon

        The question remains though, why would the Canucks trade Eriksson for Lucic straight-up? Lucic has been worse, and is signed for an extra year. If such a trade is going to happen, Edmonton is going to have to sweeten the pot somehow.

          • Jason, Vancouver would be trading for Lucic’s future performance as a Canuck, not his past performance as an Oiler. The 50 points he scored 3 years ago means nothing to us and we can see Lucic is trending down faster than anyone expected. Eriksson’s point performance has stable and he is still very good defensively (one of our most used PK forwards averaging about 100 mins TOI per season).

      • bazmagoo

        If memory serves me correctly a Chiarelli like trade is one of a) a serviceable 3rd/4th line player in exchange for an AHL player b) league mvp for a 2nd pairing defenceman or c) high end draft picks for AHL player.

        I’m not sure Lucic for Eriksson qualifies as any of those options. I do agree with a previous commentor though, both the drop in draft pick and retained salary wouldn’t be necessary. It would need to be one or the other, as Eriksson is a slightly better player and has one year less on his contract.

    • Twitch

      Lucic when unable to score brings you grit and a valuable 3rd/4th line presence, if Loui isn’t scoring he can barely bring the boys coffee and donuts in the morning. At a similar cap hit for only one year difference I’d keep the devil I know. If they can trade Lucic, pay %25 of his salary and a 4th rounder for a B+ prospect or a 2nd rounder to a minimal cap hit team that would be a better fit or pay %50 with a mid round pick and trade him for a $2-$3 2nd/3rd line roster player would be even better if a team wanted his leadership abilities, last year this wouldn’t have been an option as he looked disinterested in the last half but this year he played harder and tried to fill every role given to him.

      • Shane

        Lucic isn’t good enough to make Bakersfields 3rd line. An enforcer who can’t skate or score is about 1 million in free agency, or league minimum if you just bring up Evan Polie. Eriksson is 3x the player Lucic is at this point and I if that trade was on the table I’d scream done in the phone, smash my phone, change my number, and cut all ties with Benning so there was no way he could change his mind.

      • This is exactly right and what most people are missing. Lucic is as an overpaid bottom-6 player who has a place on the team. Loui Eriksson is turning 34 in 2 months and essentially has no place on any NHL team anymore. I don’t think its out of the question a team trying to hit the cap floor will take him off our hands.

    • T.J.F.M

      I am surprised that this was not mentioned, but if we can trade Lucic, we also trade his NMC. An ideal scenario for the upcoming Seattle expansion draft would be eliminating Lucic and his NMC and exposing Eriksson, potentially even including a prospect like Bear or someone else, to entice them to take him. Thus ridding ourselves of both at once.

      There isn’t enough depth on our team to entice Seattle to take Lucic and his NMC in the expansion draft.

      Plus, one less year on his deal. The trade would be a no brainer for the Oilers. Not sure Vancouver would do it though.

      • Jason Gregor

        I suspect if Lucic is still here in two years, he would agree to waive his NMC for purpose of being exposed. I can’t see why Seattle would claim him, when the Oilers will have better options unprotected.

  • bazmagoo

    I’d definitely be pursuing a Lucic for Eriksson trade – maybe even retain a portion of Lucic’s salary as I believe Loui is the better player currently.

    You may as well just keep Manning’s salary buried for next season, it’s only $200k difference or something similar, then he’s off the books at the end of next season.

    No one wants the GM job. I’ll take it! Call me, Burger Bob.

  • Shane

    If Gretzky can get rid of Lucic I will give him all benefits of every doubt. Seriously that should be his interview. Get rid of the Lucic contract and don’t mess up the draft and you get it.

  • 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.

    • 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

      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.

  • FanBoy

    I’d retain up to 3M on Lucic and see what I can get for that alone. If nothing, I would add draft picks to a team who sees value in Looch at 3M or if a 3rd team is involved, a team who sees value in Looch at 1.5M.

    I wouldn’t buy out Manning. Take Gryba’s contract, we could’ve just let him sit in the AHL instead of having his dead cap for an extra year. If there’s a trade where we can attach a couple of our lower end prospects who are looking like AHLers and get a pick back, that’d be a great trade IMO.

    While it’d be nice to sign JP to 2 years x 1.25M, I don’t see why he would. If anything we should give him a one year deal to show he’s improved. More incentive on his end to perform because I’m sure he doesn’t want to make 1.25M. If he does well, then we can sign him to a 3M bridge deal before giving him a big contract. A good year for JP would be 15 goals – 20 assists, and playing in the Top 6 by December.

  • Hemmercules

    The Oilers should be patient. They aren’t going to be any kind of major contender next season so play it slow. Dont buy out anything big or sign any stupid contracts (not like they have the room anyway). Let the kids develop another year.

    I’m sure the OBC will start fast-tracking as soon as they get a GM in place though. Gotta sell some hope and those seasons tickets of course.

  • Serious Gord

    Top three players most likely to be on this roster for the next four years:

    Mcdavid
    Draisaitl
    Lucic

    Lucic is about as unmovable a player as there is in league. No matter what team he is on he will occupy a roster spot (he can’t be sent down).

    So the only teams that would even remotely be interested in getting him in a trade are those trying to “spend” up to the salary floor and that have no aspirations to be competing for the cup within the next four seasons.

    That might be Ottawa. No one else fits IMO.

  • TrentonL

    Would you trade Manning to Carolina for Scott Darling (~47.75% retained)?
    Basically Oilers would get Darling at ~$2.14mm cap hit this year and next. Carolina saves ~$50k cash to buy out Manning instead of Darling.

  • 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.