Trading for Milan Lucic carries plenty of risk, but Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning should take a gamble on the veteran power forward.
Over the weekend, TSN’s Darren Dreger addressed the Lucic-for-Loui Eriksson trade speculation. Dreger said the “Canucks do see value in” Lucic, although Edmonton probably has to throw in a “some type of sweetener” for a trade to work. This came after Jason Gregor of TSN1200 came onto TSN 1040 to reveal that the Canucks were interested in Lucic.
It’s easy to understand why a Lucic trade would scare some Canucks fans. He just turned 31 years of age and carries a $6 million cap hit for four more years, per CapFriendly. Not only that, but Lucic has totaled just 16 goals over the last two seasons. He had a career-low six goals and just 20 points in 79 games this season.
Yes, that’s poor production for a guy $6 million player. Yes, he has four years left on his deal, whereas Eriksson only has three (also a $6 million cap hit in each). But if you ignore the fact Lucic has an extra year, the Canucks have plenty of good reasons for doing this trade.
For one, Lucic is three years younger than Eriksson. For another, the former has been extremely durable throughout his career — having played 79 or more games in each of the last six years. Eriksson missed 17 games in 2016-17 and 32 games in 2017-18, and as he gets older, it’s going to be harder for him to stay healthier.
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Eriksson is well past his playing prime and hasn’t topped 11 goals in a season with the Canucks. He expressed his frustration with head coach Travis Green, and if Eriksson isn’t happy here in Vancouver, then why keep him?
Lucic, at 31 and still healthy, isn’t exactly a lost cause. He had a solid 51.0 Corsi For percentage this season in Edmonton, but he had a horrid 8.1 shooting percentage (it was 6.8 in 2017-18). Those numbers are well below his career shooting percentage of 13.5. That — along with his good puck possession numbers — suggest that Lucic has just been a product of bad luck in Edmonton.
Just because he didn’t light it up with Connor McDavid, it doesn’t mean that Lucic is finished as a 20-goal man. McDavid needs speedy and skilled wingers to play with. The big 6-foot-3, 231-pound Lucic couldn’t keep up with McDavid. There’s no shame in that. The latter is only the greatest skater in the world.
If you put Lucic on a line with either Elias Pettersson (the young Swede could use protection) or Bo Horvat, maybe his production will get back on track. With Horvat playing a strong two-way game, Lucic would be able to chip in by throwing his weight around and score all those dirty goals in front of the net.
Did I mention the Canucks would probably get a sweetener out of this trade, as Dreger suggested? You mean to tell me the Canucks are getting the younger and more capable scorer, plus a sweetener, just to take on an extra year of a bad contract? Sign me up.
Obviously, there’s the whole thing about having to protect Lucic in the upcoming 2021 Seattle expansion draft — as noted here by Ryan Biech of Canucks Army. Per NHL.com, teams will be able to protect seven forwards, three defencemen and one goalie, or eight total skaters and one goalie.
The Canucks are obviously protecting Horvat, Pettersson, Brock Boeser and Quinn Hughes. In Looking two years down the road, it’s highly likely they’ll retain Troy Stecher as well, and perhaps Jake Virtanen and Adam Gaudette. At this point, it’s more likely they’d protect Thatcher Demko in net over Jacob Markstrom.
Don’t worry about top prospects like Kole Lind, Olli Juolevi and whoemever the Canucks take in this year’s pick. The expansion rules outline that “All first- and second-year NHL players” are to “be exempt from selection.”
So add it all up, and the Canucks shouldn’t have to worry about using a protection slot on Lucic. He’s an upgrade over Eriksson up front, and if the Canucks can get a sweetener out of it, why not make the play for him? Trading for the Vancouver kid isn’t such a crazy idea after all.