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Is Milan Lucic Vancouver Bound?

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Opportunity arises for Oilers to make a bold move

Edmonton Oilers v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Oh, Milan Lucic. Where do we begin?

You all remember the story. Peter Chiarelli spend big bucks to get the big man in Edmonton during the free agent frenzy of 2016. A seven year contract at six million dollars a year would get it done. The dagger? A full no-movement clause until year six of the deal, then it becomes a modified NTC.

Lucic scored 50 points in his first year of the deal. Since then, it’s been...bad. Lucic has combined for just 54 points over the last two years. This includes a disastrous 20 point campaign in 2018-19. Everyone thought that Lucic’s point totals were going to go down over time, this just hit harder than anyone would have hoped.

One of the ideas to bring in Milan Lucic was that he’d be that rugged power forward on the first line with Connor McDavid. When that fell through, there was plenty of time with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on line two. When that fell through, there was time with Kyle Brodziak on the fourth line. Lucic has gotten plenty of time on the power play, it just hasn’t translated to the score sheet.

Lucic can handle a bottom six role, it’s just not going to turn into points. At his price point, that’s going to be an issue. Add the fact that the Oilers are strapped hard to the cap ceiling this upcoming year, and something’s got to give. Things get really murky when you find out that there is no relief for the Oilers if they were to buyout the deal, as the majority of Milan Lucic’s deal is structured in bonus money. If they were to buy out Milan Lucic, the Oilers cap hit would look nearly identical if he were to stay on the roster. So what can you do?

Enter Vancouver.

Five weeks ago, Milan Lucic did a radio hit with the local Sportsnet affiliate in Vancouver. What started out as an innocent interview soon became quite interesting when Lucic was asked if he could ever see himself finishing out his career in Vancouver. The short answer is: Milan Lucic would probably welcome a trade to Vancouver.

And would you look at this? According to a couple of reputable sources, the Canucks are “interested” in Milan Lucic. Boy, would I ever like the Canucks to be interested in Milan Lucic. The Canucks want to move on from Loui Eriksson? Let’s break it down.

Loui Eriksson will be 34 by the time the season begins. Big red flag. His deal is structured quite similarly to Lucic’s (another red flag), but is for three more years instead of Lucic’s four. Eriksson had 29 points last season, 23 before that. He had 24 points in the first year of his deal. It’s not good, but 6MM AAV x 3 looks a bit nicer than 6MM AAV x 4.

Eriksson spent most of 2018-19 with Bo Horvat, Tyler Motte and Antoine Roussel. Horvat is the only player of that trio who scored more than 31 points (he had 61 last season). Could Eriksson respond in a second line role?

If the deal is Lucic and a prospect for Loui Eriksson, I probably make that deal 100 times out of 100. I’m not high on Lucic getting back to 40 points in his career ever again. Though the Eriksson deal isn’t much nicer, it’s a year shorter. New Oilers coach Dave Tippett will no doubt remember Loui Eriksson from their time in Dallas (where Eriksson was a 70+ point scorer multiple times).

WHAT ABOUT JAMES NEAL

Give me some of that sweet three way action with Calgary.

James Neal will be 32 when the season begins, has four more years at 5.75MM AAV and is coming fresh off a 19 point season. Regardless if James Neal were ever to play a game in an Oilers sweater, I would try to move Lucic to Vancouver if they were to ship Eriksson to Calgary so that the Oilers could have a freshly minted James Neal simply for the buyout.

If someone buys out James Neal’s deal, it’s a whisker under 2 million in dead cap for the next...eight years. That’s still miles better than having nearly 20 million in dead cap space for the next four. Add a “sweetener” to the mix if you must. I don’t want to ship Puljujarvi, and if it’s a second round selection that goes the other way, that’s fine as well.

The Oilers need to make this happen in the worst way possible. Getting James Neal from Calgary is the optimum move, but Eriksson is better than doing nothing at all.

Can the Oilers make this happen?