Whether or not the Los Angeles Kings will rebound from on 0-2 series hole against the San Jose Sharks is yet to be seen in this first round. Also yet to be seen is whether the speculation on Milan Lucic donning Canucks colors is a real possibility.
The hard-nose winger is set to have his contract expire after the 2016 playoffs, which paid him $3.25 million this season with the Kings. Lucic, a Vancouver native, was a target by the Canucks at last year’s NHL draft before he was traded by Boston.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) September 1, 2015
While Lucic isn’t known for speed, in a game that seemingly gets faster by the year, the 27-year-old brings some solid elements to his game. He’s 6’3″, 233 pounds, and plays an aggressive style while still chipping in offensively. Lucic had 20 goals and 55 points in his first campaign not in a Bruins jersey, and added 79 penalty minutes and a plus-26 rating.
But after a surprising start to their first round series, the offseason for the Kings and free agency for Lucic may not be too far off. A first round loss would be a disappointment for the Kings, and Lucic could be the odd man out in a potential roster shake up. He’s told reporters in more recent times that he’d love to stay in Los Angeles, but there’s reasons why the Kings may pursue to keep him past this season, and also reasons not to. The same could be said for another potential pursuant in the Canucks.
What Lucic is Worth
Lucic by all means has had a solid season with the Kings. He’s excelled in head coach Darryl Sutter’s hard-nose system where everybody plays a tough game – similar to the style of the big bad Bruins in recent years. He also hasn’t had to be the go-to guy in the forward unit, with the likes of Kopitar, Carter, Tyler Toffoli and others, which again is much like his surrounding-cast-that-was in Boston.
Teammates in Los Angeles have also called Lucic a good teammate who jelled in the room right away. He clearly fits into the Kings style, and while he’s had thoughts of playing in Vancouver, he has no plans of leaving southern California.
But the big question will be if Lucic and the Kings are able to come to an agreeable contract term in the summer. He may want more than Los Angeles is willing to pay; even with his comfortable role, the 27-year-old isn’t a point in his career where he’d likely take a discount to play somewhere.
This is where he may be of interest in Vancouver. With the likeliness of the Canucks unloading Radim Vrbata’s big contract and possibly others, there would be room to sign Lucic. He plays a tough, physical role, and would be a good supporting player to protect teammates. His resume has a lot of what the Canucks organization wants on the ice.
Would Benning Pursue Old Buddy Lucic?
Canucks General Manager Jim Benning, a former scout and assistant GM with the Boston Bruins, has shown time and time again his eye for drafting talent in Vancouver. He’s also shown his knack for bringing in old players and personnel who he has a history with.
Some of Benning’s old buddies with the Canucks include John Weisbrod, Ryan Miller and Matt Bartkowski. Weisbrod, the team’s assistant GM, is another former executive with the Bruins who was hired by Benning in Vancouver. Weisbrod was a former assistant GM with the Calgary Flames, and has had a role in bringing over Sven Baertschi and Markus Granlund in trades.
Miller was a Buffalo Sabres fifth round draft pick in 1999, thanks largely in part to Benning who was the team’s Director of Scouting at the time. Bartkowski, meanwhile, was acquired by the Bruins in 2010 with Benning in the front office. Both players were free agent signings by Benning with the Canucks; Miller’s term at three years, $18 million was an unpopular move in Vancouver, while pending free agent Bartkowski’s $1.75 million term is hard to fathom, based on how poor he performed in 2015-16.
Lucic could potentially contribute in the Canucks lineup if put in the right role, but it would only be a risk worth taking if it comes at the right term.
If Lucic didn’t come to terms with LA, it would likely be because he’s asking for too much money. With a lot of young players coming up the pipeline, giving a lump sum to Lucic wouldn’t be a good commitment by the Canucks. But regardless of the price, would Benning be too tempted based on their history?
So #Canucks fans, Benning’s old buddies in VAN include Miller and Bartkowski. Would you accept signing Milan Lucic?
— Colton Davies (@ColtonnDavies) April 17, 2016
Perhaps the Kings should play out their first round series with the Sharks before these questions progress into actions.
Canucks contributor for The Hockey Writers. Maple Ridge, BC native. Contact: email@example.com or @ColtonnDavies on Twitter.