On A Potential Milan Lucic Trade

NHL: OCT 26 Capitals at Oilers

So much for it being a quiet summer, huh Oil Country? It certainly seemed like, for a few weeks at least, that the Edmonton Oilers were finally going to bet on players bouncing back and work the edges of this roster.

That still may end up being the case, but it certainly looks like Peter Chiarelli and company have other, bigger, plans in mind as we rapidly approach the NHL’s entry draft next week.

I touched on it briefly last week, but this powder keg was set off by a tweet from club insider Bob Stauffer. Essentially, Stauffer alluded to a deal moving out a long-term contract for a player that gives the team a different look.

Then came the Milan Lucic rumors.

Elliotte Friedman had this to say in his 31 Thoughts article yesterday, which I think sums everything up regarding Lucic quite nicely.

We’re dealing with some verbal semantics when it comes to Milan Lucic in Edmonton.

I’d heard rumours he’d asked for a trade, but that was denied. However, it’s clear he and the Oilers are working together to gauge interest. It doesn’t look like an easy trade to make without taking back a big contract, but the team seems confident there will be a fit.

There’s a lot to digest from the last few days, folks.

Where It All Went Wrong:

There are a lot of theories as to why we are where we are with Lucic and the Oilers right now. After all, Lucic was supposed to be a mainstay for at least the first four years of his contract before the expected decay began to take place. Why the seemingly imminent breakup after just two seasons?

It is my belief that Lucic has struggled to adapt to life in Edmonton, and I’m not sure he truly has after two seasons. Living in Boston and Los Angeles are quite different than living in Edmonton. I’ve been to all three cities, I love all three cities, but they are vastly different. That has had an impact on the player without doubt.

I also am of the belief that usage may have something to do with what we are dealing with right now. Lucic came to Edmonton expecting a big role on this team. During his slump this past season he was relegated to the third line and ended up losing powerplay time. All of this was on merit during the season, but it certainly brought frustrations to a boiling point.

Can It Be Fixed?:

I’m of the belief that it can be fixed. I’ve seen it put out there that Lucic only came to Edmonton to collect a big paycheck and call it a day. Quite frankly, that couldn’t be further from the truth. For all of his faults, Lucic is a prideful person and does bust his ass on and off the ice each night. Things did not go his way, but I don’t believe that effort or ‘give-a-damn’ were part of the problem.

I also believe that Lucic took his tough second half quite hard, as anyone would. That doesn’t seem like the course of action for someone here just to collect a check.

Contrary to popular belief, there was also a lot of bad luck involved with Lucic this past season. Hockey-Reference paints the picture of a player who is likely going to have a better 2018-19 season.

Lucic’s on-ice save percentage was 90.5 this past season, the second worst number he’s seen in his career (89.8 in Boston in 2011-12). Goaltending was not good this past season for the Oilers, and defensively there were too many breakdowns. Lucic certainly isn’t without fault here, but it paints a picture of a player who had no luck when it came to getting a save.

His shooting percentage was just 6.8%, by miles the worst of his career. In fact, Lucic’s career percentage is 13.7%, nearly double (!!!) what he posted this past season. The eye test shows a guy that was robbed on a lot of plays and hit a lot of posts this past season. Again, he’s gotta finish plays, but there were chances.

Lastly, Lucic’s PDO this past season was 98.4. That’s slightly below average, and should correct itself over time. That would, again, indicate regression to a more positive mean for this player.

I’m not saying Lucic is going to come back and light the world on fire, but I don’t think it’s impossible that we see a 20-goal, 50-point season from the big man in 2018-19. These percentages, in theory, should correct themselves.

Was Lucic great in 2017-18? Far from it, but I think bad luck played a part in that.

Why A Trade Makes Sense:

The biggest issue with this player, dating back to the day he signed, is the contract. Even if Lucic rebounds next season, which I believe is a strong bet, there are still four more seasons left on his contract with a $6,000,000 cap hit. I think the last three years could be a problem for the Oilers.

That’s why a trade here makes sense. If the Oilers don’t have to retain an insane amount of money or take an equally as bad contract back, they should make the deal. Even if Lucic bounces back as I believe he will, the cap savings moving forward are more beneficial to the club in my opinion.

There is also the possibility that you can still get something valuable out of Lucic, which I believe will be the case if the deal is expanded a bit.

Who Would Be Interested?:

I think it is quite obvious, but Vancouver is absolutely interested. It is also my belief that Montreal and Florida are interested in a Lucic deal. While I haven’t heard them connected, I wouldn’t be surprised if Pittsburgh also dipped their toes into this conversation, especially if Edmonton was willing to take the Phil Kessel contract back in exchange.

Final Thoughts:

If I were a betting man, I’d wager that the Edmonton Oilers deal Milan Lucic before the opening of free agency. There is just far too much smoke surrounding this fire right now and too many big names talking. Something appears up here.

It’s too bad, because Lucic is truly a likable person and does work hard. For whatever reason, it just appears this wasn’t the fit that player and team thought two years ago.

Edmonton has to be careful here, however. Lucic is candidate to enjoy a strong bounce back season in ’18-19. The contract is going to be a problem down the line, but the player could help next season.

While a trade is still the likely course of action, you have to hope the Oilers don’t shoot themselves in the foot by attaching an asset like the 10th overall pick, Jesse Puljujarvi or Kailer Yamamoto to this player. That, to me, simply isn’t worth it.

It’s going to be a very interesting few weeks.

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