The Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames linked up to make one of the strangest trades of the off-season as James Neal and Milan Lucic were swapped for both parties to get a change of scenery. Apparently, it could have been the Canucks and Oilers making a deal.
This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, given that Lucic appeared on Vancouver radio back in May to discuss the possibility of playing in Vancouver at some point, but Luke Fox of Sportsnet confirmed both sides had interest in a deal.
Gerry Johansson tells @Sportsnet650 there was a chance Milan Lucic could've been a Canuck this season. Conversations with the team were had, and Lucic was into it.
— luke fox (@lukefoxjukebox) September 19, 2019
Lucic signed a seven-year deal worth $42 million with the Oilers back in 2016. He had a productive first season in Edmonton, scoring 23 goals and helping the Oilers make the playoffs, but he fell off a cliff in the following two seasons, scoring just 16 goals in 2017-18 and 2018-19 combined.
Things got really ugly for Lucic and Edmonton and it was well known that he wanted out. The Oilers, unsurprisingly, also wanted to get themselves out from under Lucic $6 million annual cap hit. They just needed to find a dance partner.
The obvious situation here, given Lucic’s not-totally-random comments about being interested in playing for his hometown Canucks, was finding a deal around Lucic and Loui Eriksson, who had a similarly bad contract from the 2016 off-season. The issue was Eriksson had one less year on his contract than Lucic, making him easier to handle from a financial perspective, and he had a no-trade clause and would have had to accept a deal to Edmonton.
It seems this deal would have evaporated when the Canucks and Oilers either couldn’t agree on a sweetener for Vancouver taking on the extra year of Lucic or Eriksson immidiately refused to waive his no-trade clause to get shipped to Edmonton. Regardless, the Oilers were able to pull the trigger on a deal with the Flames, acquiring James Neal, who didn’t have any kind of no-move clause in his contract.
Regardless, the Canucks dodged a bullet here in the Lucic situation. While the Loui Eriksson era in Vancouver has been dreadful, he’s still a more productive player than Lucic, his deal will expire one year sooner, and he would be slightly easier to buy out. Even though he does boast the toughness and deterrent factor the Canucks apparently coveted, he also owns the uglier contract.
Given that Jim Benning went out and addressed the grit need with the Michael Ferland addition this off-season, we can probably put the Lucic to Vancouver rumours to rest now.