One of the mandates for new Edmonton Oilers GM Ken Holland is to try and move salary off the books. The quickest, yet most difficult way to do so would be sending veteran forward Milan Lucic off the roster and to another NHL franchise.
It’s a great idea in theory, but that’s not something easily done.
The Lucic Dilemma
Lucic, 30, has four years left on his seven-year, $42-million contract. The contract handed to him in the summer of 2016 was troubling. Now that he’s proven unproductive, that same contract has shown itself to be near-toxic.
In his first season with the Oilers, Lucic looked like he might have promise. With 23 goals and 50 points, his production was about what fans had expected over 82 games. After that first year came and went, he’s scored only 54 points in 161 games. Sadly, only 16 of those have been goals.
He knows he’s played poorly and he’s searched for solutions. He simply can’t find them. And, at $6 million per season, there’s not a team in the NHL that would be willing to take that kind of money on, except maybe one.
The Loui Eriksson Dilemma
The Vancouver Canucks are facing a similar dilemma. While not nearly as toxic as the Lucic contract appears to be, Loui Eriksson’s deal in Vancouver is not helping the team.
Eriksson, 33, has an identical cap hit at $6 million and has over three years left on his current deal. He scored 11 goals and 29 points in 81 games last season and the season prior, didn’t fare much better with 10 goals and 23 points in 50 games. The Canucks will be looking to move his contract this summer and likely don’t have a lot of takers.
The question becomes, ‘does Vancouver think trading three years in age equal adding one more season of Lucic?’ In a deal like this, Edmonton would be taking on an older, possibly slower player while the Canucks would be adding one more year of money to their books.
Depending on who you ask, some would say this is fair. Others would say don’t go near this deal with a 10-ft pole (both sides could make the argument.)
One thing we know, Lucic would waive his no-trade clause to facilitate said trade. Lucic’s recent comments to Vancouver’s Sportsnet 650 about one day playing for his hometown Canucks tells us he’s already thinking about the move.
At the time, Lucic said:
“I remember doing an interview back in ’07 before the Mem Cup and I said it would always be a dream of mine to some day play for the Canucks. You still have that kid inside of you. You still have that dream of playing for your home town team. And like I said you never know what the future has in store and what potentially can happen.”source – ‘Milan Lucic speculates on one day playing for Vancouver Canucks: “That’s definitely something I wouldn’t rule out.”‘ – Edmonton Journal – David Staples – 05/01/2019
The Other Lucic Solution
The reality is, both sides might be better served to dump the contracts, even if a buyout is painful. Moving money off the books and sending a clear message to the rest of the roster is something a few NHL insiders have suggested the Oilers might consider. It’s not great value and it’s fair to say it could be a mistake long-term, but there is value there.
There are two problems with this idea. First, this is fiscally irresponsible of the Oilers if you think you can get more out of Lucic at $24 million over four seasons than by being assessed a cap hit of $19 million over four seasons to cut him. Second, the minute you move Lucic, as invaluable as he’s been, you need to replace Lucic. Buying him out makes that exponentially more difficult.