The Edmonton Oilers have traded veteran forward Milan Lucic to the Calgary Flames in exchange for fellow veteran forward James Neal, according to Gene Principe. Additionally, Elliotte Friedman would add that the deal will require the Oilers to retain some of Lucic’s salary as well as a conditional draft pick.
Heading into the 2019-20 season, Lucic still has four-year remaining on his current deal with a $6 million annual cap hit and a no-movement clause. Neal is under contract for another four seasons as well with a $5.75 million cap hit.
For both teams, this deal serves as a way to swap struggling forwards with bad contracts who simply didn’t fit into their now-former teams’ plans.
It’s certainly notable that while Neal had a very bad 2018-19 season, scoring only seven goals and 19 points in 63 games in his first season with the Flames, he scored upwards of 20-goals in each of his previous 10 seasons in the NHL with the Dallas Stars, Pittsburgh Penguins, Nashville Predators and Vegas Golden Knights. He’d score 25 goals in 2017-18 before earning a hefty five-year deal worth $28.75 million.
For Lucic, the 31-year-old’s production has steadily declined since his first season with the Oilers. The Vancouver-native would score 33 goals and 50 points in 82 games in his first season in Edmonton, brought into to serve as a veteran leader and some added muscle on a team that wanted to protect Connor McDavid.
He’d follow that season up with only 10 goals and 34 points in 82 games, steadily declining in every facet of the game. Last season, things clearly came to a head when Lucic would score just six goals and 20 points.
Oilers and Flames Trending in Opposite Directions
The Oilers and Flames found themselves on opposite sides of the Pacific Division and the Western Conference Standings last season. While the Flames finished with 50 wins and 107 points, the Oilers would finish with just 35 wins and 79 points and were ranked seventh in their division and 25th in the NHL overall.
The two Alberta teams both have playoff ambitions moving forward, but it’s hard to imagine the Oilers taking the appropriate steps to find themselves in a significantly better spot come 2019-20 than they’ve found themselves in as of late. On paper, though, they may have found themselves as slight winners of this veteran forward swap if Neal can prove that his 2018-19 season was an anomaly.
Logically, the Oilers will likely look continue rebuilding and developing their young players in the near future while the Flames are in a win-now mode and need all the firepower they can get. It’s interesting, then, that they deemed Lucic a better fit for their current timeline than Neal, especially just one year into a five-year deal.