Flames Would Be Making Mistake Extending Lucic

Things haven’t always been easy for Milan Lucic during his time as an NHLer. The now 34-year-old was seen by most as the game’s top power forward through his prime years with the Boston Bruins and continued that solid play during his only season with the Los Angeles Kings in 2015-16. Shortly after that season, however, things quickly went downhill.

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During that 2016 offseason, Lucic inked a seven-year, $42 million deal with the Edmonton Oilers. While his first season was successful, things got ugly soon afterward, as the hulking winger struggled to produce offensively, and oftentimes didn’t appear to be overly engaged. Sensing that a change was needed, Oilers general manager (GM) Ken Holland flipped him to the Calgary Flames in exchange for James Neal, and though Lucic’s scoring touch remains a thing of the past, he has regained some of his value since then.

Milan Lucic Calgary Flames
Milan Lucic, Calgary Flames (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Flames fans quickly embraced Lucic and his physical style of game, and despite his cap hit have come to appreciate what he is able to do in the bottom six. It isn’t just the fans, either, as head coach Darryl Sutter has been very complimentary of him on a number of occasions. GM Brad Treliving seems to like what he provides as well. So much, in fact, that he is reportedly considering signing him to an extension.

Flames Considering Re-Upping Lucic

According to a report from Anthony Di Marco of The Fourth Period, the Flames’ management group is discussing the possibility of signing Lucic to a new deal. As of now, he is set to become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.

“According to a team source, TFP has learned the Flames have been internally discussing and evaluating a contract extension for veteran forward Milan Lucic,” Di Marco wrote in an article published on Monday (Nov. 1).

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Thoughts on a possible extension are likely to come with mixed views from Flames fans, as some would like to see some younger players on the American Hockey League’s Calgary Wranglers begin to fill out the bottom six in the coming years. That said, there would be plenty of others who would be more than happy to welcome the big man back. Let’s take a look at the positives and negatives that could come with a potential extension.

Why the Flames Are Considering Keeping Lucic Around

Perhaps the biggest reason of all for bringing Lucic back is the fact that he is everything you could ask for in a veteran player. He wears his heart on his sleeve, knows his role on the team, isn’t afraid to stand up for his teammates on any occasion, and most importantly is a locker room favorite. On top of all that, the fact that he has Stanley Cup-winning experience from his time as a Bruin certainly doesn’t hurt.

One thing that has hurt Lucic in terms of being evaluated in recent seasons is his large cap hit. He takes up $5.25 million of the Flames’ cap space, which is undeniably too much given what he is capable of providing at this point in his career. Unfortunately, his contract often has people overlook the fact that he is still more than capable of playing in the Flames’ bottom six.

Last season, Lucic’s 209 hits led all Flames skaters by a relatively wide margin. They were also good enough for 26th overall amongst all NHLers, despite the fact that he averaged only 12:15 in ice time per game. This shows that he was throwing his body around at every opportunity he had. That grit hasn’t gone unnoticed by Sutter nor other Flames players and is a key reason why Treliving is considering keeping him around.

Why the Flames Should Let Lucic Walk

While there is certainly some validity towards those that will argue the Flames should keep Lucic past this season, there are plenty of reasons why they shouldn’t. Not only would re-signing him prevent a younger player from getting into the lineup, but the fact of the matter is that aside from being a physical presence, he doesn’t provide much else.

Milan Lucic Calgary Flames
Milan Lucic, Calgary Flames (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Last season, Lucic had just 10 goals and 21 points in 82 games. That certainly wasn’t outstanding production but was still far better than his lone assist in 12 playoff outings. This is a player who is simply no longer capable of keeping up with the speed of today’s game, and it shows more often than not.

The 2021-22 season marked the fourth straight that Lucic failed to surpass the 30-point mark, and there is a very slim chance he is ever able to get to that total again. It is evident he is a shell of his former self, and at the age of 34, that decline in play is likely to only continue as time progresses.

According to the report from Di Marco, Lucic has his sights set on a multi-year deal. That in itself should give the Flames all the reason they need to walk away. Perhaps a one-year deal near the league minimum could be justified, but his play in recent seasons hasn’t suggested he is at all worth a deal that carries term.

Flames Can Be as Successful Without Lucic

Let me be clear in saying that Lucic has done everything the Flames could have hoped for since acquiring him. His effort level can never be questioned, and not once has he complained whatsoever about his often limited role. On top of that, as previously mentioned, he has been a model teammate from day one.

With all that said, however, he is far from the main reason this team had the success they did last season, and that won’t change in 2022-23. His veteran presence certainly doesn’t hurt, but this Flames team has plenty of veterans in the lineup. Replacing Lucic with a younger, speedier player next season would be beneficial to this group. Whether or not Treliving ends up agreeing with that sentiment remains to be seen.

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