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One for one, but it’s actually good

To say that signing Milan Lucic was a mistake is easy in hindsight.

He came to Edmonton on a contract nobody knew was good, but there was at least a glimmer of hope he would provide a few decent years for the Oilers.

Despite being saddled to Connor McDavid’s hip for extended periods of time, Lucic just wasn’t able to perform.

Many thought the Oilers would be stuck with him for the entirety of his contract but instead, Ken Holland was able to do what many thought was impossible. He was able to actually win a Lucic trade.

It was a one for one trade, but it was actually good.

I will give Lucic credit, however, as he was at least able to maintain some barely-positive underlying numbers. But for $6-million, the Oilers needed something much more than just barely-positive underlying numbers — they needed production.

Many hoped Lucic’s veteran presence and leadership abilities from his time in Boston would seep positivity into the Oilers locker room. He would come in and be the vet the team had coveted for so long, many hoped.

Instead, we saw a team continue to struggle — beyond one playoff push — and a team that continued to look as fractured as it had for the last decade. Lucic was no longer part of the answer.

Last season the talks began to pick up. The rumblings he asked for a trade. Then, on Friday afternoon in the kindest way possible, Gene Principe broke the deal.

A gentleman, and a scholar, he is.

None the less, Ken Holland was able to undo one of the biggest wrongs form the Chiarelli era in moving out Lucic and winning the trade while doing so.

James Neal comes in as the ultimate buy-or-bust player.

As it’s been written about, he’s a player who has been one of the league’s most consistent goal scorers since he entered the league 11 years ago.

That is, of course, until he joined the Calgary Flames. Shooting a meager five per cent, he only scored seven goals; it was his lowest goal total since he scored 21 goals in 2012-2013.

Holland made it known that he had been targeting a top-six winger. With a tight market and a salary cap situation that saw Edmonton more strapped than not, his options were limited.

He maneuvered a tight situation and essentially played $500k more for a player who might be that top-six answer for the Oilers. A career 11.6 per cent shooter, it’s more likely than not Neal rebounds and doubles his goal total from last year.

Scoring at least 14 goals would be a win for Neal. And if it turns out that he truly is over the hill, the Oilers have a great ability to buyout Neal and save some legitimate money.

On the other hand, I’m not sure why Calgary was willing to do this deal. The team has seemingly wanted to “get bigger” after a first-round exit in the playoffs, but the truth of the matter is Colorado just outplayed Calgary — simple as that.

Colorado didn’t beat Calgary up physically. They beat them up with speed and the ability to hold onto the puck more — simple as that.

At the end of the day, what’s important is that the Oilers now have a top-six winger who can play with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on the top line, or with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on the second line.

On Twitter: @zjlaing

        • All Ice

          How do you figure? If that’s the case they don’t get the third round pick and lucic would still be overpaid by about 4 million. That’s the amount the oil save by being able to buyout Neal. Seems a wash at best there. If Neal has a return to form the flames still might not get the third and it becomes a landslide win for the oil

        • CMG30

          Lucic has a NMC which means he will cost whichever team he’s on a good young player in the expansion draft. So part of the cost of having Looch on your team is saying by by to someone you otherwise wouldn’t have to….

    • Ken Holland

      The clause in the trade tells you what the GMs think of these players.

      IF Neal outscored Lucic by 10 goals and scores over 21, the flames get a pick.

      Just shows how much better Neal is than Lucic that they even needed to put this into the trade.

    • Oily Reign

      If we have to pay the third round pick because Neal completely out scores Lucic (21+ goals, and 10 more than Looch), we win this trade big time. Even if we don’t have to pay the third, we win this by not having to protect Looch in the expansion draft, or if we need to buy out Neal (versus Looch’s buyout proof contract).
      Love this trade. In Holland we trust!

    • The Iggy complex

      No win yet. Lucic actually provides something to the team when he isn’t scoring. Neal is useless off he can’t score, which is hard because he is slow and always out of position. So far a win for the flames

  • Bond 0097

    There is no doubt we won this trade hands down, even if we bought out Neal tomorrow. There is no upside to Lucy, he has trended down since leaving Boston but even worse, he drags down his linemates also. He also takes a roster spot away from an up and comer trying to break into the league, who is usually saddled with playing with him, ask Jesse how good that was. Hopefully with Lucy gone Jesse will now return to the fold and develop into the player we all hope he can be. So a double win for the Oil with this trade, way to go ken Holland!!!

  • toprightcorner

    If you see some of Treivlings interviews he didn’t want to say they needed to add toughness, just give their team a different look.

    Basically they needed someone because Tkachuk keeps writing cheques that nobody on the team could cash and that made Gaudreau vulnerable.

  • toprightcorner

    If you remove the names, Holland traded a player who is basically a 4th liner for a player that will play in your top 6 and it only cost $500k in extra salary.

    The conditional 3rd rounder is basically trading for an extra 10 goals in a season. Any coach in the league would trade a 3rd rounder for their team to score 10 more goals this year, that is likely 2 wins worth.

    Holland pulled off the impossible and didn’t have to add a significant sweetener to pull off the deal.

    Dubas traded away a 1st to dump a 1 year unmovable contract, Holland paid $500k and got a very movable contract.

    Holland has done the impossible, his next feat will be walking across the North Saskatchewan.

    • Serious Gord

      Most every one felt it was too much term and dough. The idea – which I don’t remember you differing from – was that the first three years he might be a key part of the team getting few cup runs – maybe even a cup. That benefit was thought to be worth the overall crappiness of the contract.

      I largely agreed. But somewhere on this site I related a personal anecdote that happened in the spring of lucic’s last season with the bruins when my son and I went to a game in Tampa where the bruins were the opponent. In the pregame entertainment zone outside Amalie we met two older couples who were devout bruins fans. They complained about lucic’s inconsistency – that more and more he looked and played disinterested. And that game we saw it – many shifts he just floated around while on a handful he was a wrecking ball and the bruins got some scoring chances.

      It was – as it turned out -a foreshadowing of what we got for the last three seasons.

  • Wadentheshade

    Great move by a veteran GM. Just as Chiasson won’t hit his well above average shooting percentage, Neal won’t be that low again in his well below average shooting percentage. I am a huge fan of not having to protect him in the up coming expansion draft. Well done Holland.

  • OilCan2

    Ken not only won the trade but silenced the naysayers of the mighty OilersNation. Yikes this guy is going to be dangerous with some cap space and empty roster spots next summer.

    • Die Hard Oiler Fan

      Agreed. Lots of negative comments about Holland not using the cap space created from the Sekera buyout to acquire either a top 6 winger or 3C. The small amount of Lucic’s salary retained ($750k, wasn’t it) here was used pretty effectively, wouldn’t you say ? Holland knows what he’s doing.

  • Fireball

    Just going to throw this out there. The Oilers have had a lot of bad luck over the years in signing or trading for “Stars” the whole of Etown has been duked many times only to see a star get snuffed out. Neal had one less point than Lucic last year.. played less because of injury.. it ain’t no home run., the best part of this deal

    • The Iggy complex

      Lucic played 4 minutes less a night with AHL quality players. Still put up more points than Neal on a line with a supporting cast and he was still terrible

      • KootenayDan

        Spin it anyway you want, I personally like Looch and he is tough no doubt but the game is whizzing by him at a mercurial pace. He can no longer make plays and is too slow to get to where he is going and can’t score. Either way it is the buyout option for both contracts that makes this a win for the Oilers and over 80 percent of the hockey media agrees.I wish no ill will towards the Flames but Tre made a huge mistake and Oiler fans are rolling around the floor in glee.

      • Dan13

        Lucic was spending time on the checking lines because he was failing to get to the spots McDavid, Draisaitl and RNH needed him to be in. He’s certainly not a bum – any NHL team would still play him *somewhere*, but he doesn’t work very well finishing for lightning fast playmakers. If the Flames really have a better role for him than they had for Neal, then maybe it’s a good trade for both. Regardless, it’s almost certainly a good trade for the Oilers.

      • Serious Gord

        Interesting point. Last season Neal was expected by flames mgmt to be a key and prominent part of their team’s offence. And he was given loads of opportunity to be that. Meanwhile in EDM Lucic was already considered a bust and treated like it.

      • The future never comes

        Try to spin this whatever way you want, but us Oiler fans that have watched him for the past two years know what he actually is. Do not lie to yourselves collectively, you will only be vastly dissapointed. I do not even care that you Calgary nerds come here to troll, this is a hockey fan to hockey fan comment – he is completely done. I would be willing to bet you or any other flamer money that he will not get more than 10 goals again in his career. You guys objectively got destroyed in this trade. Pull up any stat you please, wait til you watch him live come October. Enjoy bud.

      • Hockey Buddha

        Lucic and Neal were both poor fits with their respective former teams, and both players have track records showing that they’re proven NHLers. I don’t know how much either player has left to give, but a change of scenery should help. With Lucic, you can’t help but like his physical play. He brings it every game. Lucic is not fun to play against, but neither is Neal. Both players have a mean streak and competitiveness. Lucic is the tougher of the two players; however, Neal has decent hands and a better shot.

        Lucic just didn’t gel well on either of our top two lines. He is not a fast skater. I think that the trade will benefit both players. Neal should be a better fit for the Oilers. I like Neal’s chances of rebounding better, as a lot of players struggle the year following a lengthy cup run. Neal will be given a greater opportunity in Edmonton than he got in Calgary.

        • The future never comes

          Lucic does not bring it every game, that’s just not accurate. He brings it 1 in 4 games at best. His hits are all after someone dishes the puck and does not affect the next subsequent play. A change of scenery does not make ones diminished skill absolutely re-appear. Fact is, his skill is gone – no new area code will fix that.

      • Homer

        Better chance at a rebound?!? I assume you never watched any Oiler games, Lucic is done!! 2 seasons in a row of the play instantly ending as soon as he touches the puck. 2 fights last year both vs the lames.

  • The future never comes

    Anybody questioning who won this trade must be as blind as a bat. Lucic is on the frtiz of being completely done as a player. AHL callups are bound to out play him within a year or two. He is the killer of all plays and could barely take or recieve a pass at this stage, nevermind chucking it to no one one far to often. Holland gets an A+ for this.

    • The future never comes

      As a sidenote he got his 20 goal scorer through Neal, his one last task is getting a 3C and I think he will acquire it through a combination of Pulju and maybe one other asset. Then this roster will be more reasonable to actually chat about squeeking into playoffs.

    • The Iggy complex

      Hahaha Oilers fans are so delusional. Neal was much worse at driving play and providing scoring chances then Neal. Neal was a plug in every way. Lucic is a couple bounces away from being at 30 plus points. Especially now that he can play with NHL calibre players. Hard to get points on that horrendous Oilers team

      • KootenayDan

        Really? McDavid, Draisatl and Nuge are not NHL calibre players? now I know you are reaching. Oilers don’t need Neal to drive the play just finish them. The buyout option and not having to protect him during the expansion draft is huge that makes it a one sided deal time for you to retire from this discussion.

      • Oilswellthatendswell

        Oilers have centermen capable of driving their lines. That would be part of a responsible center. Neal would just need to be in the right place, just like Chiasson did to get his career highs. Lucic is a couple of bounces away from being a gorilla.

      • RJ

        I haven’t watched every game over the past few seasons, and the number of live games I go to have been dwindling.

        But in all the games I’ve watched Lucic play, he has not been a couple of bounces away from 30 points. Outside one PP heater in his first season, he’s a fourth line producer as an Oiler. If Neal can still take or make a pass, then he’s a better player than Lucic.

        As for the much-vaunted physicality, have a look at some of the Bruin fan sites when he was traded to LA. He’d lost most of his physicality by the time he left Boston, never mind Edmonton.

        He looks like a guy who could be a beast but isn’t. He looks like he could be an enforcer, but isn’t.

        By this time next year, Flames fans will be calling for your GM to be fired, Lucic to be bought out or asking for Lucic to retire. He’s been that bad.

      • Lowe enuf

        Just took a look on FN. It seems you don’t have many fellow Flamers who agree with you. Lots wanting Treliving’s head, lots barely hanging on to the ledge. No wonder you here making a nuisance of yourself. Must be pretty boring over there!

  • Dan13

    “Ken Holland was able to undo one of the biggest wrongs form the Chiarelli era”

    Disagree slightly with this. The deal doesn’t completely undo the problems caused by the Lucic contract – it just (very likely) reduces them. 6.5 mil is still too much for Neal, and if he works out, it’s going to cost us a draft pick.

    Holland still deserves praise, though. Spending 6.5mil for 7-25 goals is better than spending 6mil for 6-10.

  • Camosack

    Greetings from Victoria. 500 1932 custom ‘deuce’ coupes scurrying around the city this weekend in a car festival. Back to business… Flames lost the trade due to draft protection required for Looch. I’m Calgary all the way, but I am sooo glad to see Neal gone. If he bounces back I’ll eat a tuna sandwich under Wayne’s statue. They’re both boat anchors.

    • Ken Holland

      So your saying there will be no draft pick included in this trade?

      Seems like Treliving disagrees with you, or he wouldn’t have included it as a clause.

      • Reg Dunlop

        Have a peek at the phlegm’s last 10 3rd round picks. Nikolaev, Fox, Hickey, Kanzig, Gillies, Reinhart, Leach, Howse, Bouma and Negrin. That’s about 30 goals and 50 points in TOTAL, most of it courtesy of Bouma. The potential 3rd rounder is nearly worthless compared to Calgary having to protect Lucic and losing a real prospect or a real NHL player to Seattle. Lucic is the worst player in the league and he is no longer our problem. This is absolutely a huge turning point.

    • BR

      Albeit slow. They would be quite slow in today’s NHL. Might see Chiasson in the third line with a granlund or nygard getting minutes with Neal and Hopkins to give them some speed and a forecheck.

  • Bond 0097

    If Calgary wanted a tough customer they would’ve tried to pry Khaira out of us, Lucy is a has been. He is the Manchurian hockey player, we trade him to our most bitter rival and watch them fail miserably. looks good on you Cowtown and enjoy protecting him in the expansion draft and don’t expect him to protect anybody because he sure didn’t do it here.

  • BR

    Great deal for EDM. The optimism that comes with being able to pencil in a legitimate top six winger to the lineup rather than trying to figure out if lucic can play above the fourth line is great. Hopefully we can get at least two good seasons from Neal before a buyout. Will save us some legitimate cap room when needed. Even trading him at 50% could be an option. Wishing lucic all the best in Calgary though. He really tried here. Hopefully he doesn’t murder any of our guys on the ice.

  • BR

    Great deal for EDM. The optimism that comes with being able to pencil in a legitimate top six winger to the lineup rather than trying to figure out if lucic can play above the fourth line is great. Hopefully we can get at least two good seasons from Neal before a buyout. Will save us some legitimate cap room when needed. Even trading him at 50% could be an option. Wishing lucic all the best in Calgary though. He really tried here. Hopefully he doesn’t murder any of our guys on the ice.

  • Goaltender Interference

    I agree with the headline of the article – this deal is probably as close to one-for-one as any Lucic trade would ever get barring the sudden reintroduction of Chiarelli-level stupid into the GM ranks of the league.

    If the condition is met and the third-round pick is converted, its well worth it.

    Realistically there’s small chance that Neal will bounce back, however much we Oilers fans want it to happen… but there’s a bigger chance for Neal than there is for Lucic. That plus the removal of an NMC anchor plus an easier-to-swallow buy-out option makes this nothing but a pure win for a Edmonton.

    If assets had to be thrown in, it would have been a loss. One-for-one (or within hand-grenade range of it) flips that on its head.

    Well done, Mr, Holland. Respect.

  • slats-west

    Sad to see Luc go.. I thought he played game hard and honest. Kept mcdavid safe. That was huge having him on that bench something you don’t see in any stats. Did he contribute for a $6MM guy no. Was he responsible for all of the Oilers wows – No. He was defensively reposnsible that had a below career shooting %. He wasn’t 0 like Rieder but poor.

    Good luck Luc hopefully we see you in BOA ……but take it lightly on us.

  • OilerFaithful.Always

    This is a huge win for the oilers. Neil was never given the opportunity of playing with talent that he had gotten every where else he played. Last year was a one off and does every one forget how much the oilers were salivating watching Neil play with McDavid at the allstar game knowing he was going into free agency?!?! Now we have him we got that elusive top six forward we’ve been begging for all summer, and out from under Lucics contract while doing it! This is so exciting what a great move by holland. Very lucky to have him as our GM!

  • Arfguy

    Even if Neal scores 0 goals next year, this is a big win for the Oilers given the structure of Neal’s contract.

    Having no clauses means that Neal is a lot easier to deal with if he doesn’t pan out than Lucic. I did not think that Lucic’s contract could be moved, but Holland has pulled off a miracle. I am so pleased.

  • nijames

    This is a no win trade or either team, just exchanging plugs. The oilers actually increase the cap hit of the Lucic deal to $6.5 million on a team that is cap strapped. That hurts a lot. I do think that Neal has a bit more of an upside but its marginal. No team wins this trade its a saw off