One of this summer’s biggest trades involved sending Milan Lucic to the Los Angeles Kings, a move many praised because Lucic and the Kings “heavy hockey” style of play goes together like peanut butter and jelly. But Lucic, before he’s even donned the crest of the Kings, is talking about playing for another team.
In an interview with TSN 1410, as quoted by THN, Lucic said, “I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen moving on… I have one year left on my contract, and there’s a possibility that I can hit the [free agent] market. It’s obviously something that’s been a dream of mine since I’ve been a kid, is to play in your hometown and play for the Canucks, but right now the main focus is going down to L.A. and trying to make the most of that.”
While Canucks fans might be torn (Are we tanking? He beat us for the Cup! Remember the glory days? Should we riot?), it’s not a huge stretch for Lucic to think that he won’t be in L.A. longer than a season.
The Kings have cap troubles on the horizon, even if there are no negative cap repercussions to the coming Mike Richards grievance. The Kings have just $4.8 in extra space and are, in part, making the cap work because of some clever moves (terminating Richards, getting Christian Ehrhoff cheap, having the Bruins retain some of Lucic’s salary). But they’ll need to re-sign Anze Kopitar, plus Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson are two seasons from needing a significant raise.
It will be complicated at best for the Kings to keep Lucic on the team.
The Canucks should, barring any other significant moves, have the cap space to pursue Lucic, who could command $6-7 million AAV, next summer. Part of the mystery may be resolved if we get some clarity on what Vancouver is doing. It’s not clear if management thinks they’re a contender or if they’re working on a rebuild or maybe a Doug Wilson-style refresh.