Random Thoughts: What’s next for the Oilers, the Milan Lucic contract, some off-season questions

Photo credit:Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
11 months ago
Now that we’re a week out from the Oilers getting bumped, all I can think about is what the team is going to do to improve and how they’re going to make it happen with limited cap space available. All this thinking has left me with a few Random Thoughts rolling around in my brain that I’d love your help with figuring out.


When Tyson Barrie got traded at the deadline to bring in Mattias Ekholm, it was clear that the Oilers felt that Evan Bouchard was ready to pick up the offensive slack and run the league’s best power play. As hoped, Dad stepped up in a big way down the stretch, produced points the way we knew he could, and basically cemented himself as a pillar on the back end for the club that drafted him. But now that the season is over, all I can think about is what’s going to happen with his upcoming contract negotiation. With only $5.97 million in cap space currently available — keep in mind we still don’t know what next year’s cap number will be — you’d have to imagine that a bridge deal is the only available avenue for this next contract, but what exactly does that look like? Would it make sense to give Bouch a two or three-year contract with an AAV of around $4-4.5 million per? Would he even sign that? Can the Oilers realistically go that high without gutting the forward group of a piece or two? This extension is going to be a story to follow all summer long, me thinks.


I don’t think I’m talking out of school when I say that Cody Ceci’s second year with the Oilers wasn’t nearly as steady as his first. According to some rumblings on Twitter, the guy was banged up for portions of the year and that could be part of the reason that he wasn’t as effective as we’d like him to be. It’s not crazy to assume that he wouldn’t be able to bring his A-game if his body is not feeling its best, ya know? Regardless of what the cause of his year actually was, the reality is that the $3.25 million pricetag beside his name puts his future with the club in question. For a team that doesn’t have a whole lot of cap space to find improvements this summer, I wonder if Ceci’s name is one that will be circled as a potential option to be sent out or upgraded. That said, is reasonable to expect that Ken Holland (or Steve Staios) will be able to do better than Ceci in that 2RD spot for the same price or less? Would there be suitors for a Ceci deal that wouldn’t require the Oilers to take back an ugly contract in exchange? I don’t think moving on from Ceci — if that’s the plan — will be as easy as some of us think it would be.


I love Ryan McLeod. I think he’s got all of the tools and smarts needed to become an impact player at the NHL level, and even though he hasn’t quite gotten there yet, I feel like his time to blossom is coming soon. So when it comes to a new extension, what does that look like for a kid that put up career highs in goals and points despite playing only 57 games? Last year, McLeod did the Oilers a favour by signing a one-year $798K contract, and I wonder what his new extension is going to look like and how much of a pay bump he’s going to get. I think it’s clear that McLeod is an important piece of the forward group with plenty of room to grow, but what I don’t know yet is how all that fits within the budget. If I was a betting man — I absolutely am — I’d guess that this new deal lands somewhere around $1 million, but the detail I’ll most be waiting to see is whether that’s another one-year contract or if the extension locks him in for longer than that.


I’m already assuming that Dylan Holloway is going to be playing for the Oilers next year, but I wonder if there are any other prospects that are ready to push for a job with the big club or graduate entirely. Would a guy like Raphael Lavoie who just put up 25 goals and 45 points in 60 games with the Condors have a chance to lock in a spot in the bottom six? Would that role even suit his skillset? Given that Lavoie won’t be waiver-exempt next season, the Oilers will have an interesting choice to make with him when training camp rolls around and I wonder how much he recognizes the opportunity for him to stick provided that he’s ready for prime time. If the Oilers are going to take another real step forward, they’ll need some young players on ELC-type of deals to step up and make an impact. Do they have a player here in Lavoie that can make that leap? I mean, the right side is wide open for the guy, ya know?


Can you believe it’s already been seven years since Peter Chiarelli locked Milan Lucic into a seven-year, $42 million free agent contract? We all know the story so I won’t rehash the whole thing now, but what I do find interesting is that his name and $750K in dead cap space is finally coming off of the Oilers’ books. Nearly four years after Holland shipped Lucic to Calgary in exchange for James Neal, the last of Milan’s contract is finally paid off and I think this story should be used as a reminder of what can happen when you chase free agents whose best days are likely behind them. I mean, even though the Looch money is finally gone, the Oilers still have $1.9 million in dead space from the Neal buyout on their books for another two years. Given the work Edmonton has to do on their roster this summer, it sure would be nice to have that extra $2 million to play with.


On this week’s podcast, I talked about how much fun I had during the playoffs and how devastating it feels for all of us to have this run end early. Subscribe to Better Lait Than Never on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or anywhere else you get podcasts.

Check out these posts...