Milan Lucic‘s huge seven-year contract he signed with the Edmonton Oilers is lastly over. Lower than midway via that contract, the Calgary Flames determined to swap James Neal for Lucic as each have been extremely underperforming and overpaid. This resulted within the huge winger spending the final 4 seasons with the Flames.
Lucic is nowhere near the participant he as soon as was when he signed his seven-year, $42 million common annual worth (AAV) deal. The league has modified and gotten sooner, whereas he has gotten slower and fewer efficient as he’s aged. The Flames accepted him as a bottom-six/fourth-line participant quickly after they acquired him, and he was nice in that function. If he have been being paid $4-5 million AAV much less, there would have been completely no issues or complaints. At age 34, Lucic could be very possible hitting free company and might present a lot of physicality and toughness as a fourth liner on a group that’s missing that and depth generally. Right here’s a take a look at three groups who shall be going via some modifications this offseason and would possibly want the veteran’s presence on the backside of their lineup.
New York Rangers
The New York Rangers lacked effort of their first spherical, and despite the fact that head coach Gerard Gallant famous that one unhealthy week shouldn’t outline their season, they’re now at residence watching hockey as a substitute of taking part in. Chris Drury has some work to do after an all-in try on the commerce deadline got here up quick and there are some huge free brokers to cope with who shouldn’t be again (from ‘Patrick Kane’s Rangers tenure appears all however over,’ New York Submit, Might 3, 2023). I anticipate younger forwards like Alexis Lafreniere, Kappo Kakko, and Filip Chytil to get an opportunity larger up within the lineup and never a ton to be added in free company, however I additionally anticipate some physicality to be added and depth to be addressed.
The Rangers gave up on Ryan Reaves early within the season, sending away quite a lot of toughness, even when he did play restricted minutes. Though New Jersey isn’t a really bodily group, and that’s not how they beat the Rangers, the fourth line is trying very depleted and weak heading into the offseason if the unrestricted free brokers (UFA) do stroll. Will Cuylle performed 4 video games this season, however logged fewer than seven minutes per recreation and isn’t prepared simply but. Two different choices the Rangers have underneath contract, Jake Leschyshyn and Jonny Brodzinski, mixed for one objective and one help in 52 video games. A minimum of Lucic scored seven objectives and 19 factors final season and might log extra minutes.
The Colorado Avalanche had a horrible exhibiting by their depth forwards within the playoffs that inevitably led to their Spherical 1 elimination. The highest-six accounted for the entire scoring, getting a complete of 1 help from Alex Newhook (1A), Andrew Cogliano, Lars Eller, Darren Helm, Denis Malgin, Ben Meyers, Matt Nieto, and Logan O’Connor. Eight of the Avalanche’s forwards, most of them depth forwards, are UFAs this summer season, and there may be little doubt that lots of them will grow to be free brokers.
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There’s an excellent probability that the Avalanche make it again to the playoffs subsequent season, in order that they may be trying into the longer term when assembling their backside six. Lucic, in contrast to lots of the depth gamers that stuffed out the underside six for the group within the playoffs, has a ton of playoff expertise and success. He has produced 29 objectives and 77 factors in 136 playoff video games, and the large recreation he performs is suited to a extra bodily model of hockey within the playoffs. The Avalanche shall be searching for low cost contracts as they are going to be tight on cap. Lucic will value $1 million AAV or much less.
After lastly lacking the playoffs, the Pittsburgh Penguins are in retailer for some modifications. Their core continues to be superb and have been let down this season with poor strikes over the previous yr. There was a noticeable uptick in youthful gamers coming into the lineup, however lots of them have been restricted to a small variety of video games resulting from inexperience.
The Penguins are additionally ready to let a number of bodily gamers hit free company, similar to Jason Zucker and Josh Archibald, whereas their depth, left unchecked, shall be very weak. There shall be some holes to fill, and Lucic, who could be part of a veteran management group, can present what the group is more likely to lose for subsequent season. He doesn’t must play each recreation however is usually a strong addition to make use of within the extra bodily video games and within the playoffs as they’re hoping to get again there subsequent season.
Lucic has had an extended and profitable profession for essentially the most half. His function has drastically modified from the final time he was able to signal a contract and can be capable of present worth for less expensive on a group that’s trying to make a run on the Stanley Cup. Though he isn’t a giant identify in free company, it would nonetheless be attention-grabbing to see the place he finally ends up and which group chooses to handle an absence of depth and physicality on their roster.