Well, it looks like it’s finally happened. The long-awaited divorce between Milan Lucic and the Edmonton Oilers has been completed. The Oilers have reportedly linked up on a deal with their provincial rivals, the Calgary Flames, on a deal to swap Lucic for James Neal.
Got a tip trying to 100% verify but I'm being told @NHLFlames have traded James Neal to @EdmontonOilers for @27MilanLucic. May be other players involved. If I'm wrong my apologies to Neal/Lucic and the teams..
— Gene Principe (@GenePrincipe) July 19, 2019
— Nick Kypreos (@RealKyper) July 19, 2019
Lucic was signed by Peter Chiarelli back on July 1, 2016, to a seven-year deal worth $6 million annually. We all knew that Lucic’s deal would become problematic at some point during the seven years, but nobody expected him to fall off a cliff this quickly. Lucic had a strong 2016-17 season, helping the Oilers to the playoffs with a 23-goal season. In the following two seasons, though, Lucic scored just 16 goals.
Neal was signed by the Flames last July and lasted just one year in Calgary. In each of his 10 seasons in the NHL, Neal managed to hit the 20-goal plateau until 2018-19 in which he scored just seven goals in 63 games for the Flames. Like Lucic, Neal has four more years left on his contract, but he has a smaller cap hit of $5.75 million.
This deal is ultimately a swap of forwards with bad contracts in need of a change of scenery. Both Neal and Lucic are 31 years old, so it’s hard to say if either will ever become the player they used to be, but if I had to make a bet, I would suggest Neal becoming a 20-goal scorer is much, much more likely than Lucic becoming the feared force he was in Boston ever again.
Beyond the change of scenery thing, Neal’s contract would be much easier to buy out than Lucic’s buyout-proof deal. If the Oilers were to buy out Neal next June during the buy out window, he would come at a cap hit of $1,916,667 for the next six seasons.
More details are coming out about the deal. The Oilers will apparently be retaining $600k of Lucic’s salary, meaning they won’t really be getting that $250k savings in swapping Lucic’s $6 million cap hit for Neal’s $5.75 million cap hit. In sum, the Oilers will be taking on a $350k cap hit in this swap with the salary retention considered.
FWIW, on Oilers Now, Elliotte Friedman reportedly said Lucic salary retained was $600k. #Flames
— Ryan Pike (@RyanNPike) July 19, 2019