Calgary Flames

The plausible Milan Lucic trade and why the Anaheim Ducks make sense as suitors

Make no mistake, Brad Treliving is far from done this offseason. The Calgary Flames currently have 12 forwards listed on their NHL roster, which includes rookie Jakob Pelletier and restricted free agent (RFA) Adam Ruzicka. Pelletier had an outstanding first season in the AHL, putting up 62 points in 66 games, and the 21-year-old has a good shot at taking a spot on the Flames this coming season.

Pelletier making the team is no sure thing, as head coach Darryl Sutter isn’t particularly fond of young players and may prefer that the 5’9″, 165 lbs winger spend another year in the AHL to continue and develop. Adam Ruzicka will likely sign a one-year deal close to his qualifying offer, and should be an NHL regular this season after putting up 10 points in 28 NHL games last year.

With this information, we can assume the Flames will add at least one or two forwards before the 2022–23 season begins. Looking at the current cap situation, the Flames have roughly $2.8M in space to add those one or two forwards to complete their forward group.

Make no mistake, the Flames could just add a couple depth guys for a million bucks and head into the season as currently constructed. But would anyone realistically call the Flames a Stanley Cup and contender with this current forward group?

Huberdeau – Lindholm – Toffoli

Mangiapane – Backlund – Coleman

Dube – Monahan – Ruzicka

Lucic – Rooney – Lewis

Not exactly a belle of the ball group, especially with Sean Monahan recovering from another injury and Ruzicka still being unproven. That fourth line will also contribute very little to the overall table, except for a hit or two every shift.

But the Flames are in continued rumours around Nazem Kadri, Paul Stastny, Evan Rodrigues, Sonny Milano, among others. Management definitely have their sights set on improving this forward group significantly, as they should.

Aside from the free agent market, I outlined another way of improving their forward group, taking advantage of other teams and their tight cap situations and grab a forward for cheap. Whether it be free agency or trade, adding and improving this forward group will very likely require more cap space than the $2.8Mthey have right now.

How the Flames get more cap space

Two options that immediately come to mind are Monahan and Milan Lucic. With Monahan recovering from another significant injury, the likelihood of teams being interested in Monahan seems low. With the rumoured price of a first-round pick for the Flyers to move James Van Riemsdyk and his $7M cap hit, you can assume the price to move Monahan and his $6.4M cap hit would be similar.

Moving over to Lucic, and things become very intriguing. Sportsnet 960’s Pat Steinberg reported earlier this offseason that the Flames wouldn’t need to sweeten the pot to offload Lucic and his $5.25M cap hit. Knowing that, the choice seems pretty clear, right? Trade a high draft pick to move $6.4M, or trade $5.25M at no cost? I would choose to offload the $5.25M and keep the high draft pick.

Lucic does have a modified no-trade clause in his contract, where he lists 10 teams that he would accept a deal to, so ultimately he would have the final say if the team isn’t already on his list.

What makes Lucic appealing for other teams

The Flames would no doubt love to keep Lucic, with his exhibited leadership and hard-nosed play that made him an instant fan favourite. Lucic is a presence on the ice, and is still known as one of the toughest players in the entire league. You can hear the “Loooooooch” chants take over the Saddledome every time he touches the puck, which distinguishes him from no other on the Flames.

Lucic is a valuable asset for the Calgary Flames, but hockey is a business, and making tough decisions is Treliving’s job. If the Flames want to upgrade the forward group and make a playoff run, exchanging Lucic’s 21 points and $5.25M for whatever they can get for $5.25M plus the $2.8M they currently have in space right now, it’s a no-brainer. That combined $8.05M in cap space could land you Nazem Kadri, a combination of Stastny, Rodrigues, and Milano, or allow them to re-visit the trade market with more serious considerations on the table.

Due to Lucic’s contract structure, he has a cap hit of $5.25 million, but is only owed $4M dollars in salary. However, that $4M is even lower as he was paid his $3M dollar bonus earlier this summer. For teams who will be looking to save real dollars as they rebuild/retool, paying only $1M in real dollars to get a veteran leader like Lucic makes almost too much sense.

We’ve heard some rumblings about the Boston Bruins and bringing the band back together after Bergeron and Krejci re-upped. It certainly makes sense that the Bruins would like to bring back Lucic, and the Bruins being a trade partner for the Flames isn’t completely out of the question. The Bruins do have some injury circumstances with Marchand, McAvoy, and Grzelcyk, who will not be healthy when the season starts.

Why the Anaheim Ducks should acquire Lucic

Anaheim wants to add a player to replace Nicolas Deslauriers and the toughness he provided. With the Ducks’ young roster, it is important to have a guy who can guide these young pros with leadership and protect them when needed. Those attributes perfectly describe Lucic.

The Ducks are a very young group and have lost Hampus Lindholm, Rickard Rakell, and Josh Manson to go along with Deslauriers. But by far the most notable loss, the retirement of their long-time captain Ryan Getzlaf. Adding Lucic—a veteran of 1,096 regular season and 136 playoff games—to this young Ducks core would be very beneficial.

With $18.85M in cap space currently available for the Ducks, they can take on Lucic with no issues at all, and would still leave them with ample room for other additions or subtractions. As mentioned, Lucic only being paid $1M in salary would be a big sweetener for the Ducks and their ownership group, as they look to save money during their own retool/rebuild.

As the Ducks continue to flip older roster players for younger ones and draft picks, Lucic’s $5.25M cap hit could also help ensure that the Ducks remain above the cap floor. Remember, the Ducks were below the cap floor before signing John Klingberg to his one-year, $7M deal, and he could be flipped at or near the trade deadline in exchange for futures.

Lucic has a say in where he goes, and few know who is on his 10-team trade list. If the Ducks aren’t already on his trade list, would he waive to be traded to the Ducks? That is an answer that only he can answer. Lucic does have past experience in California, as he played one season with the Los Angeles Kings in 2015–16, so there is familiarity there.

Lucic hails from Vancouver and has previously discussed his love for the West Coast. Lucic reportedly bought a house in LA several years ago, so moving to the Ducks could kickstart his families eventual move back to the West Coast. I’m sure having Disneyland as a very quick drive would also serve Lucic and his three young kids quite well.

My proposed trade offer

The Calgary Flames trade Milan Lucic and Juuso Valimaki to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for Minnesota’s 2023 third-round pick. Anaheim previously acquired that pick for Nic Deslauriers last year.

With this deal, the Ducks acquire the toughness and Deslauriers replacement they are looking for, while taking a shot on Valimaki, who is only 23 years old and if given an opportunity, could turn into a solid defender. By trading the third-round pick they previously acquired for Deslauriers, the Ducks essentially swap Deslauriers for Lucic and take a shot on Valimaki for no cost.

Losing that third-round pick isn’t ideal for a rebuilding team, but adding that toughness and leadership element along with a young defenceman in Valimaki for the Deslauriers return could prove very beneficial.

On the Flames end, trading Lucic’s $5.25M and Valimaki’s $1.55M cap hits helps to free up an extra $6.8M in cap space. Couple this newly acquired $6.8M with the already available $2.8M, and the Flames suddenly have $9.6M in space available to improve their forward group. That gives Treliving a bunch of flexibility in completing this group, which would give the Flames a huge step up over other teams in the market. Adding a third-round pick in a deep 2023 draft is also a plus, as the Flames currently don’t have a third-round selection due to the Calle Jarnkrok trade with Seattle at last year’s deadline.

Let’s wait and see if this comes to fruition.

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