The Vancouver Canucks have been rumoured to be in the market for just about every player rumoured to be available through trade or free agency, so much of what you hear should probably be taken with a grain of salt.
At least one hopes that’s the case when it comes to Milan Lucic.
When the power forward expressed what seemed like a mostly harmless interest in coming back to his hometown (he grew up in East Van), most Canucks fans wrote it off.
But then, as they always do, the innocent notion started gaining some steam. It was Darren Dreger. And Eliotte Friedman. And quotes from Vancouver general manager Jim Benning about the one thing many supporters of the team didn’t want to hear: “getting tougher.”
Benning also talked openly about possibly dealing Loui Eriksson, who has a similar contract to Lucic’s (both are $6 million a year, but the latter has four years left and a no-movement clause where the former is locked in at three more with a no-trade), so naturally, the rumour has become a full-blown Vancouver sports radio talking point.
And then there’s the fact that Eriksson appeared to slag coach Travis Green in an interview with a Swedish outlet. Of course, the Oilers just hired a head coach in Dave Tippett who was behind the bench during some of Eriksson’s best years with the Dallas Stars.
Add it all up and it appears there is an appetite among Canucks’ brass to broker a deal for Lucic.
Of course, contrary to what some Edmonton media are suggesting (general advice: Jim Matheson is not to be trusted), the Oilers would have to throw in something extra in order for this to make sense for the Canucks, who would be taking on the more cumbersome contract.
Sure, Eriksson isn’t exactly playing with any sort of passion. But Lucic is a fourth-liner at this point in his career. Could a change of scenery help both players? Maybe.
In addition to the extra year on his deal, Lucic would theoretically have to be protected in the Seattle expansion draft (though that could reportedly be negotiated with the team).
There’s also the hard truth that all of this would also hinge on Eriksson waiving his no-trade clause to go to Edmonton. Maybe a stretch.
In any case, there’s enough hype around the possibility that we have to ask: what would it take for the Canucks to take on the extra year of a bad contract? Here are three scenarios we think could maybe work, with maybe being the operative word.
1. Loui Eriksson for Milan Lucic and Jesse Puljujarvi
This one has been all over the media, and you can see why. The Oilers haven’t been happy with Puljujarvi, whom they selected fourth overall in the 2016 draft. He had nine points in 46 games this season and was a frequent healthy scratch. He was even spent down to Bakersfield of the AHL at one point.
But would the Oilers be willing to give up on such a high draft pick just to rid themselves of a bad contract?
Doubtful. And thus, some creative suggestions have expanded on the template of this deal.
Jake Virtanen or Nikolay Goldobin could be swapped in on the Canucks side, or so goes the story. We can see the latter going to Edmonton, as Green hasn’t exactly been thrilled with Goldobin’s play. The former? Doubt it.
Verdict: Puljujarvi is such an unknown commodity and it’s hard to see the Oilers risk him becoming a star somewhere else unless they get something of equal value back. Would Goldobin be enough? Probably not, no.
2. Loui Eriksson and the 10th overall pick for Milan Lucic and the 8th overall pick
Another rumour, though some have this as part of a theoretical deal involving Puljujarvi.
But it’s yet another case of a team (and its fanbase) valuing their own asset higher than what they’d be getting. Oilers fans and media seem to think that Lucic is a better NHL player than Eriksson, which, OK, sure. (They’re both fourth-liners, FYI.) But for the Canucks, simply moving two spots up the draft from 10 to eight probably doesn’t make sense.
Verdict: Benning has already talked about being satisfied with the 10th overall pick, and there likely won’t be a huge amount separating those picked from 6-12 anyway. Moving up to eight here isn’t worth taking on the extra year of the contract, at least not in a vacuum.
3. Loui Eriksson for Milan Lucic and the Oilers’ second-round pick in 2019
Benning would probably love to add some picks for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft in Vancouver.
But the Oilers need all the assets they can get and there’s still the question about whether this is even close to enough for the Canucks.
Verdict: It’s just not enough. Outside of the Oilers coughing up a first-round selection here, even multiple picks wouldn’t do the trick, as far as we’re concerned.
There are certain players or assets that are completely off the table from the Oilers side of things. Of course Connor McDavid and Leon Draisatl. But also Darnell Nurse, Burnaby’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and prospects like Evan Bouchard and Kailer Yamamoto. Simply put, there’s really not a ton the Canucks would want on the Oilers roster that the latter would be at all inclined to move.
The Oilers did, after all, place behind the Canucks in the standings this year, despite McDavid and Draisatil both recording over 100 points. That’s insane, and sheds some light on just how despicably bad the Oilers’ depth currently is.
Surrey’s Jujhar Khaira? He projects to be a role player in the bottom-six and the Canucks don’t exactly need more of those. And the Oilers probably aren’t moving futures like former Vancouver Giant Tyler Benson.
If only Edmonton had a skilled former college free agent whom the Canucks coveted at the time but just wasn’t fitting in with the Oilers. Oh wait, they had exactly that in Drake Caggiula but traded him to the Chicago Blackhawks last December for… Brandon Manning, who they buried in the AHL.
We’re not saying Caggiula alone would have been enough to sweeten the pot (though he might have been a decent start), but it just goes to show how horrendous the Oilers have been at asset management—and how bare the team’s cupboard currently is. Right now, there doesn’t seem to be a sensible path towards an Eriksson-Lucic deal.
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