To say that signing Milan Lucic was a mistake is easy in hindsight.
He came to Edmonton on a contract nobody knew was good, but there was at least a glimmer of hope he would provide a few decent years for the Oilers.
Despite being saddled to Connor McDavid’s hip for extended periods of time, Lucic just wasn’t able to perform.
Many thought the Oilers would be stuck with him for the entirety of his contract but instead, Ken Holland was able to do what many thought was impossible. He was able to actually win a Lucic trade.
It was a one for one trade, but it was actually good.
I will give Lucic credit, however, as he was at least able to maintain some barely-positive underlying numbers. But for $6-million, the Oilers needed something much more than just barely-positive underlying numbers — they needed production.
Many hoped Lucic’s veteran presence and leadership abilities from his time in Boston would seep positivity into the Oilers locker room. He would come in and be the vet the team had coveted for so long, many hoped.
Instead, we saw a team continue to struggle — beyond one playoff push — and a team that continued to look as fractured as it had for the last decade. Lucic was no longer part of the answer.
Last season the talks began to pick up. The rumblings he asked for a trade. Then, on Friday afternoon in the kindest way possible, Gene Principe broke the deal.
Got a tip trying to 100% verify but I'm being told @NHLFlames have traded James Neal to @EdmontonOilers for @27MilanLucic. May be other players involved. If I'm wrong my apologies to Neal/Lucic and the teams..
— Gene Principe (@GenePrincipe) July 19, 2019
A gentleman, and a scholar, he is.
None the less, Ken Holland was able to undo one of the biggest wrongs form the Chiarelli era in moving out Lucic and winning the trade while doing so.
James Neal comes in as the ultimate buy-or-bust player.
As it’s been written about, he’s a player who has been one of the league’s most consistent goal scorers since he entered the league 11 years ago.
That is, of course, until he joined the Calgary Flames. Shooting a meager five per cent, he only scored seven goals; it was his lowest goal total since he scored 21 goals in 2012-2013.
Holland made it known that he had been targeting a top-six winger. With a tight market and a salary cap situation that saw Edmonton more strapped than not, his options were limited.
He maneuvered a tight situation and essentially played $500k more for a player who might be that top-six answer for the Oilers. A career 11.6 per cent shooter, it’s more likely than not Neal rebounds and doubles his goal total from last year.
Scoring at least 14 goals would be a win for Neal. And if it turns out that he truly is over the hill, the Oilers have a great ability to buyout Neal and save some legitimate money.
On the other hand, I’m not sure why Calgary was willing to do this deal. The team has seemingly wanted to “get bigger” after a first-round exit in the playoffs, but the truth of the matter is Colorado just outplayed Calgary — simple as that.
Colorado didn’t beat Calgary up physically. They beat them up with speed and the ability to hold onto the puck more — simple as that.
At the end of the day, what’s important is that the Oilers now have a top-six winger who can play with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on the top line, or with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on the second line.
On Twitter: @zjlaing