Oilers’ forward Milan Lucic has been taking a public lashing in recent weeks. Perhaps deservedly so. A $6 million cap hit on the roster for another five seasons after this one, there are expectations that come with being paid such a hefty salary. 10 goals and 32 points in 70 games just doesn’t cut it.
All that said, this would be a terrible time to try and trade the veteran forward.
Is Lucic Even Tradeable?
You may be asking, “is Lucic even tradeable?” That’s a fair question considering how poor his production has been this year. Yet, if you look back to the beginning of the season, Lucic was better-than-decent five-on-five and only in the latter part of this year did his production fall off a cliff.
This is a player who despite his obvious weaknesses, continues to find work in the NHL. He’s got a lot to offer — size, grit, and scoring touch — but he doesn’t seem to put it all together on a consistent basis. If the Oilers were to eat some of his salary (or take a horrendous contract back) and Lucic agreed to move (he has a no-move clause), there are likely takers out there.
The other alternative would be a buyout and while some are suggesting this an option for the player, this too would be a mistake (the numbers for the buyout are here.)
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What Might a Trade Look Like?
There have been reports of late the Ottawa Senators have been heavily scouting the Edmonton Oilers, namely Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. The speculated baseline of the trade would be Mike Hoffman for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins thanks to the rumor GM Peter Chiarelli doesn’t want so much money tied up in three centers. But, would Hoffman and forward Bobby Ryan make sense for Lucic and Nugent-Hopkins? There may be smaller pieces worked into this deal but some people are suggesting this might be a plan of action for both teams.
The Ryan and Lucic deals are rumored to be contracts both teams would like to move with the Senators rumored to have considered moving one of the best defensemen in the NHL in Erik Karlsson just to rid themselves of Ryan’s contract.
Ryan makes $7.25 million per season until 2021-22. That’s $1.25 more than Lucic and, believe it or not, his production is actually worse. Over the past two seasons, Ryan has 25 and 27 points to his credit. He’s posted a total of 21 goals in 111 games. Ouch.
There’s nothing to suggest here that Ryan could come into the Oilers’ organization and turn things around. So too, trading Hoffman for Nugent-Hopkins means adding an older winger for a younger center (who can play wing) and saving under $1 million, which makes little sense.
Ok, So What to do With Lucic?
As painful as this might sound to fans who are watching Lucic have one of the worst seasons of his NHL career, a bit of perspective is required here.
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This is a player who up until this season has not had a campaign under 44 points since 2012. He has three 20-plus goal seasons since 2013 and his chances have been there this year, he just hasn’t cashed in on them. If you consider last season he went on a tear, scoring at a ridiculous pace for a few weeks with Nugent-Hopkins on his line, streaks where he scores in bunches are not impossible.
Sure, this season is too little too late. That doesn’t mean Lucic turning things around in the last 10 games of the year wouldn’t have value. It also doesn’t mean his game has permanently declined.
In the end, if you trade, buyout or try to move Lucic, you’ll be taking a huge hit to make the move possible. Fans might not think it, but there are worse positions for the Oilers to be in. And to move Nugent-Hopkins to make this deal work means immediately trying to replace a player like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Jim Parsons is a freelance writer who covers the Edmonton Oilers and news and rumors posts here at The Hockey Writers.
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