Earlier this week, we took a step back and looked at Kris Russell and the fact he isn’t living up to his four year deal worth $16 million that was signed in June. Today, we take a look at another major contract on the Oilers roster that simply isn’t worth it at this time.
That contract belongs to Milan Lucic, the prized free agent signing of the Peter Chiarelli era. A dominant power-forward for years with the Boston Bruins, Lucic was brought to Edmonton on July 1st, 2016 in an effort to better balance the roster and to change the culture with the Oilers. It’s safe to say that the seven year contract simply isn’t working out.
Why The Deal Was Done:
Peter Chiarelli signed Lucic to be the replacement for Taylor Hall mere days after sending the former face of the franchise to New Jersey for Adam Larsson. Lucic has never, and never will be, the offensive player that Hall is, but the theory was that Lucic would come to Edmonton, change the culture of the team, provide offense and play a heavy style of hockey.
It hasn’t exactly worked out the way many people had hoped. Lucic posted 23-27-50 in his first season as an Oiler, but he struggled mightily at five-on-five and was only able to produce on the powerplay. The overall numbers aren’t bad, but Lucic simply was not a $6 million a year player last season. The club made the second round of the playoffs, however, and Lucic was credited with helping to change the culture.
This season, Lucic’s five-on-five numbers have rebounded but his powerplay numbers are completely non-existent at this point. He’s got 4-9-13 in 21 games but really has been a non-factor on most nights. In fact, there are many games where you only notice Lucic because of the stupid penalties he takes.
As for the culture change? Well, that may have been a bit overrated. The Oilers look every bit as bad as they did during the decade of darkness, and to the shock of many Oiler fans simply replacing Hall with Lucic doesn’t make it a sunshine day everyday in Edmonton.
Lucic Isn’t Living Up To His End:
Part of the problem this season with the Oilers is they aren’t getting enough offensive production. Four goals for a player making $6 million simply isn’t good enough. Oiler fans wanted to get on Jordan Eberle for not playing a hard style of hockey, but at least he produced like a $6 million player. Milan Lucic hasn’t come close to doing that for the Oilers.
Your best players have to be your best players. Whether you like it or not, Milan Lucic is paid to be one of Edmonton’s best players and he simply isn’t playing like it. In fact, on merit, I’m not sure Lucic deserves a spot in Edmonton’s top-six right now. He’s simply not playing good hockey.
Another major issue for the Oilers? Their penalty kill. Lucic is a major factor in this regard because he simply can’t stay out of the penalty box this season. A number of times he’s taken stupid penalties away from the play or in the offensive zone. Oiler fans were quick to crush Benoit Pouliot for his penalty issues, but I’d argue that Lucic is way worse in this regard.
Not only is Lucic taking penalties, but he is failing to draw them. At least Pouliot would come close to evening things out by forcing the other team to take penalties, but Lucic is simply too slow to draw those penalties right now. He’s a major negative in this regard and is costing his team in a big way.
Bottom line is, Lucic is being paid like a first liner but is producing like a low-level second liner. He’s killing the Oilers with his dumb penalties and he quite frankly is playing bad hockey. This isn’t a player that should be making $6 million a season, plain and simple. It’s another fatal mistake made by Peter Chiarelli, this is a boat anchor contract for the club.
I always find it funny that Oiler fans were willing to chase Taylor Hall out of town because the Oilers lost when he was on the team. I find it hilarious that they wanted to chase Jordan Eberle out of town because he posted 51 points in a down year last season. Yet, with all that said, Milan Lucic is a God in Oil Country.
That’s ironic because Lucic, who makes the same money on a yearly basis as Hall and Eberle, isn’t close to the player that the other two are. That’s not an opinion, that’s a fact and it is backed up by the numbers.
The Oilers sacrificed Eberle for cap space this past summer, but I think a really good case can be made that the wrong $6 million dollar man was sent out of town. When you try and figure out why the Oilers are in cap hell, don’t blame Connor McDavid for his mega deal that he earned, blame the GM for the horrible contract handed to Milan Lucic.
The player isn’t living up to his end of the deal, and it’s costing the Oilers in a major way. It’s at the point where looking to trade Lucic can only help this club moving forward.