Would Milan Lucic Benefit From Going Home?

Despite the NHL draft and Free agency day still quite a bit away, rumours are heating up all across the league. One of the biggest names being floated around is Milan Lucic of the Edmonton Oilers.

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Lucic, 31, is coming off a career worst season with the Edmonton Oilers. He sported only 6 goals and 14 assists in 79 games. Lucic signed a big 7 year, $42 million  contract with the Oilers back in July 2016. Lucic’s contract hasn’t helped the Edmonton Oilers’ cap issues.

So I pose the question, would a fresh start be good for Milan Lucic?

In recent weeks, rumours have been planted about a potential swap. It appears that the Vancouver Canucks have been talking to the Edmonton Oilers about a one for one trade. The rumoured trade is:

To Edmonton Oilers:

Loui Eriksson (3 yr/$6 million AAV)

To Vancouver Canucks:

Milan Lucic (4 yr/ 6 Million AAV)

Now I know what many may be thinking, why do this? Well, here are couple of reasons.

Cap Relief for both teams

As many know by now, the Oilers cap situation is not in a good spot. At the moment, the Oilers have 9 million in cap space, but they have quite a few pending RFAs.

I do understand that this does only buy the Oilers an extra year of cap space, but that one year can make a huge difference. If they can move Lucic, they’ll have 6 million in additional cap space in time for July 1, 2022. Come July 1, 2022, there will be several elite players hitting the free agent market. P.K. Subban, Claude Giroux, Phil Kessel, Patrice Bergeron, Johnny Gaudreau, Tomas Hertl, Colton Parayko, Nick Leddy, Rasmus Ristolainen and Evgeni Malkin will become free agents. So, having that 6 million in space will be very handy for Ken Holland

Also keep in mind, I’m sure both Ken Holland and Jim Benning both may consider retaining salary for both players, meaning essentially they would potentially absorb up to 50% of the current contract in order to remove the players from their rosters.

A Change Of Scenery Can Benefit Both Players

Sometimes a change of environment can help a players mindset. If a player is closer to home, it could impact their play. Essentially, it is a reset for both Eriksson and Lucic. Eriksson has been vocal in the past about his troubles with Canucks head coach, Travis Green. Stating in an interview with Hockeysverige (translated by TSN), Eriksson states: I and the coach do not get together a hundred [percent] and it is difficult when I do not get the same trust that I received from all the other coaches I had during my career. Of course it is tough on that front.

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In short, it seems as if GM Jim Benning, may have to ship the 33 year old Swede out of British Columbia. I’m sure many people are wondering, why Edmonton? New Oilers head coach Dave Tippett has had Eriksson as a player before (2000s with the Dallas Stars). Under Tippett, Eriksson was not exactly a superstar, but did have a 36 goal campaign in Dallas in Tippett’s final season as coach. Perhaps, a reunion for Tippett and Eriksson could help rejuvenate Eriksson’s offensive production.

On the other hand, Lucic had expressed interest in going to Vancouver back in 2016, but chose Edmonton instead. Should Lucic move back home to British Columbia, he could serve as protection for the younger players such as Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser and Quinn Hughes. A similar example of this is the role that Matt Martin had when he was a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Martin provided protection for Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander during his stint in Toronto.  

Many Canucks fans might not be overjoyed with the thought of Lucic coming to Vancouver and playing bottom six minutes. Keep in mind that Lucic still has some upside and could be an asset. He’ll be entering into a new system and perhaps he’ll mesh well with Travis Green. Plus, Benning might be able to pry a draft pick or another piece to even out the deal. 

What Will Happen?

In short, will this deal happen? Possibly. Will it be just a one for one deal? We don’t know. With the offseason not that far away and teams trying to get out of cap trouble, we could see a trade come very soon. Maybe, it’ll come on draft night. 

stats from hockey-reference.com

Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins: The Jerks Are Coming

The Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes will battle for the right to play for one of the most prestigous trophies in all of sports. The Stanley Cup. 

 

Eight more wins for the Boston Bruins and the duck boats will be ready once again.

As no surprise to any hockey fan, the Carolina Hurricanes have been nails the entire National Hockey League post-season. An historic seventh game took place in Washington at Capitol One Arena in round one, and yet again it was “Mr. Game 7” himself, Hurricanes forward Justin Williams, assisting on the winning goal to knock off the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals. 

His nickname talks for him. He doesn’t need the media, the fans, the hype, or the glory. Williams makes things happen when he’s on the ice, and there’s no secret he’ll be doing the same in Game One Thursday night at TD Garden in Boston. He wins. Plain and simple. 

Williams, like any athlete, will tell you that the media can sometimes stir the pot. Have you ever heard of Don Cherry? Well earlier this season Cherry, the voice of Hockey Night in Canada, took it upon himself to go out of his way and call the Hurricanes a “Bunch of Jerks”.

Hurricanes Not Jerking Around

If you follow the NHL, their videos went viral. After each win, the Hurricanes plan some sort of “play” or “act” on the ice. We’ve seen them play basketball, have boxing matches and we’ve even seen them cast a line or two to try and catch some fish. All in the name of celebrating a win. The fans loved it.

Which brings us to the point of “Oh wait, the Hurricanes have fans?” I’m not one to bash an organization, but the fans didn’t start showing up until the Hurricanes started winning. Call my bluff, but it’s true.

However, I believe with any team that if a slump was occurring attendance would be down. And when they start winning it’s “Oh look, we have fans!”

As for Cherry? I have no opinion on “The Jerks”. It got people into the building, buying merchandise, and having a good time inside PNC Arena. No disrespect whatsoever. Come Game One tomorrow, the storm surge better be ready for a Bruins team that can smell the inside of the Stanley Cup.

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The Hurricanes are no joke. They’ve played good hockey all season long, giving them a playoff birth, and they find themselves four wins away from the Stanley Cup Final. They’re loaded with talent. That talent is lead by the 21-year-old Finnish forward Sebastian Aho.  The Hurricanes selected Aho with the 35h overall selection in the 2015 NHL Entry draft. How does that kind of talent fall so late in the draft? Oh yeah, Bruins forward David Pastrnak fell to 25th,  Patrice Bergeron was a second-round pick, and goaltender Tuukka Rask was the “prospect” involved in the Andrew Raycroft trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs. 

Guys slip through the cracks. It happens.

Battle of the Blue Lines

A huge factor I want to mention in this series will be on the blue line. I absolutely love the back end for the Hurricanes, Personally, maybe not so much Dougie Hamilton, but guys like Justin Faulk, Brett Pesce, and Jaccob Slavin all have such bright young futures in the NHL. They recently just lost Adam Fox,who was traded to the New York Rangers. He was projected to be a top player within the organization. It just didn’t work for what Carolina was trying to build. So it’s no secret the Hurricanes can draft and develop.

A story line circling the news this week is the return of former Bruins draft pick Hamilton. He was the ninth-overall selection in the 2011 draft, the year after Boston had selected Tyler Seguin with their second-overall selection.

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We thought we had it. Our franchise forward, then our franchise defenseman. Things didn’t work out for either of them. Boston traded Seguin to the Dallas Stars for Loui Eriksson and Hamilton to the  Calgary Flames for draft picks. Not to mention Bruins general manager Don Sweeney totally struck out with the picks. Not one has been an established NHL player. Yeah, we’ve seen some call-ups but nothing permanent. 

In 2016 though, Boston selected defenceman Charlie McAvoy, who’s very much taken over the role of the “pride and joy” on the Bruins blue line. BUT, the Boston Bruins will be without their stud defenseman for Game One. McAvoy is due to serve a one-game suspension for an illegal hit to the head of Columbus Blue Jackets forward Josh Anderson that occurred in Game Six of their last series. Thankfully it isn’t any longer, but the loss of McAvoy to the Boston blue line will definitely be a factor tomorrow night.

Before the NHL trade deadline, Carolina general manager Don Waddell acquired Nino Niederreiter from the Minnesota Wild. Niederreiter has always been a high-end talent in the league. This move has shown dividends. Immensely. He looks amazing, re-energized, and clearly has his eyes on the prize. He’ll be a handful, as will many other Hurricanes if Boston wants to play for the Cup.

Bruins Rounding Into Form

We’ve seen adversity strike this Bruins team through their run to the final. Pastnrak and Bergeron were not scoring, and everyone else just seemed to be “out there”. Since Game Seven of round one, the Bruins look like a better team. I won’t say much better, but better than they did against the Maple Leafs.

Bruins veteran defenceman Zdeno Chara needs to call it quits. During the Toronto series, you could tell he was as slow as anything. The media and fans thought “Oh well, maybe it’s just the speed of the Maple Leafs”.

Wrong.

Chara looks like he’s lost. He’s driving the turnover wagon and creates costly scoring chances every game for the opposition. I know he just signed an extension for one more season, but Chara may seriously consider calling it a career when this season is over. 

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Through Games 5 and 7, we’ve seen Boston’s top line find their game. Brad Marchand has been better. Bergeron and Pastrnak (who I think is fighting an injury) have been much better. But, they wouldn’t be playing tomorrow night without their ELITE goaltender in Tuukka Rask.

I’ve written about Rask before, and as hockey fans we know the criticism he’s taken, but my goodness he’s taken everything to a whole new level this postseason.

Goaltending can win you games, and it can absolutely steal you games. Rask has done that. He’s shown up every night, and has answered the bell when called upon. He’s allowed a fluke goal here and there, but overall Rask is the reason why the Bruins are eight wins aways from hockey’s ultimate goal.

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Fans in Boston can smell, see, and taste what might come in June, which is a Stanley Cup victory.  However, the Hurricanes are the next victim on the menu. They stand in the way of the Bruins reaching their goal.

Even with their backup goalie, the Hurricanes are going to answer the door no doubt. It’ll be interesting to see who takes the city of Boston and this team on their back, for one more run at The Stanley Cup.

The time is now.

Statistics provided by hockey-reference

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals

Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins: Peter Chiarelli’s Wrath In Beantown

Peter Chiarelli Might Be The Most Heavily Criticized General Manager In National Hockey League History. 

He did win a Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins in 2011 and nearly did again in 2013 with that same Boston team. But since that time, he has made some of the most head scratching and extremely ridiculed moves of all time. But for this article, we are going to look at his moves strictly with the Bruins, and how poor those moves were for them.

 

Blake Wheeler To The Atlanta Thrashers

On February 18th, 2011, the Bruins dealt Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart to the then-Atlanta Thrashers (now Winnipeg Jets) for Rich Peverley and Boris Valabik. Rich Peverley was 28-years-old, and during that season with the Thrashers had 34 points through 59 games, and was coming off a 55-point season the previous season. He finished the season with seven points through the final 23 games as a Bruin, and wound up hoisting the Stanley Cup that year while recording 12 points through 25 postseason games.

Over the next two years, he recorded 60 points through 104 games as a Bruin, before being dealt in the 2013-14 offseason. As for Valabik, he was not in the NHL at the time of the trade, recording nine points through 49 American Hockey League games with the Chicago Wolves. He did play for the Thrashers NHL squad in prior years, playing 80 games and recording seven points. However, he never played an NHL game for the Bruins (or any NHL franchise), and was eventually out of the league after the 2013-14 season.

Stuart, at the time, had five points through 31 games as a Bruin, and finished the season with 23 games as a Thrasher and one goal. He wound up playing for the franchise for the next six years, although the team moved to Winnipeg following the 2011 season. He finished with 367 total games with the Jets, recording 52 points and being a solid, defensive-minded rearguard. 

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Wheeler was only 24 at the time of the trade, and had put up 27 points through 58 games as a Bruin that year. With the Thrashers that season, he played 23 games with 17 points. He has since stayed with that franchise, and has played 594 games in a Jets jersey, with 547 points. So  Stuart, the smaller portion of the trade that Boston gave up, had more games played then both Peverley and Valabik combined, and nearly as many points. Wheeler is an elite winger on a stacked team who has more games played and more points than all those players combined, including Stuart. That’s just trade number one.

 

That Tyler Seguin Trade…

On July 4th, 2013, Chiarelli made one of the most atrocious trades ever. He shipped off Tyler Seguin, Peverley and Ryan Button to the Dallas Stars for Loui Eriksson, Joe Morrow, Reilly Smith and Matt Fraser. Ryan Button was the Bruins 3rd round pick in 2009 entry draft (86th overall) and he never saw a day in the NHL, and was out of the league by the 2014-15 season. He currently plays in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL), where he is mediocre at best.

Peverley only played 62 games with the Stars before he was unfortunately forced to retire. For those who didn’t know what happened to Peverley, he died on the Stars bench before being revived by medical personnel, and would never be able to play hockey again. In those 62 games, he posted 30 points, and he could potentially still have been a part of the team today as a solid depth option. 

As for Seguin, he has become a premier center with the Stars. He had suited up for 203 games as a Bruin through three years, recording 121 points, including 56 goals. With the Stars he elevated his game, playing in 446 games through six seasons (including this season), with 439 points, 198 of those being goals.

Solid Deal For The Bruins

On the Bruins end, Loui Eriksson wasn’t bad. Prior to the trade he had played 501 games with the Stars, with 357 points. He had proven to be a 25+ goal scorer and continued that pattern into Boston. He suited up for 224 games in Boston, recording 62 goals and 147 points. He then left as a free agent to join the Vancouver Canucks, where he has since struggled mightily and hasn’t found his goal scoring prowess.

Smith was 22 years old when he joined the Bruins and was coming off 40 games played spanning two seasons with Dallas, recording nine points. He went on to play for the Bruins for two seasons, finding his game and recording 91 points through 163 games played. He moved onto Florida,  where he proved once again that he was a solid middle six forward before being left unprotected in the expansion draft for the Vegas Golden Knights. He remains a top player on a successful Vegas team.

As for Morrow, he was 21 at the time but hadn’t yet played in the NHL. However, he was a former first round selection (23rd overall) in 2011 of the Pittsburgh Penguins. He had played in 66 AHL games between the Texas Stars and the Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins, recording 19 points. He played in the AHL his first season in the Bruins organization with their AHL affiliate Providence Bruins. There, he recorded 29 points through 56 games while  showing great improvement, getting ten more points in ten fewer games.

The following season, he recorded 12 points through 33 games with Providence before being called up to the Boston. There, he recorded one goal through 15 games. He followed that up the following season by dressing for 33 games with Boston and recording seven points, but was for the most part a healthy scratch. In 2016-17 he started with Boston, playing in 17 games with just one assist before being reassigned to Providence and playing three games, scoring once.

He was then moved to Montreal, where he recorded 11 points through 38 games. Over the last two years he has played with the Winnipeg Jets, playing solid on the bottom two defensive pair when he isn’t a healthy scratch. He has recorded 11 points through 57 games in a Jets jersey.

Finally, Fraser was 23 years old when he joined the Bruins. He played 13 games with three points in Dallas before arriving in Boston. He wound up playing just 38 games with five points before being shipped off to the Edmonton Oilers. He hasn’t played a single NHL game since finishing the 2014-15 NHL season with Edmonton, where he played 36 games with nine points. After the 2015-16 season he went to Europe to play and has stayed there ever since.

All in all, the Bruins got a decent return in Eriksson, who was solid in a Bruins jersey however he only lasted a few seasons before moving on. As for Smith, he went on to become a solid top-six forward but for other teams. Morrow isn’t a big time player but he has been a solid depth piece for Winnipeg, while Fraser wound up being nothing much.

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Seguin has stayed with Dallas, and has gone on to become one of the top players in the league. Peverley would have potentially been a solid middle-six forward had it not been for the tragic accident on the Stars bench. Button was nothing and basically cancelled out Fraser in the trade.

 

In Conclusion…

There were many trades that could have been included, like trading two second round picks for Brett Connolly. However, those second rounders haven’t yet turned into much of anything, although those players are still young (Boris Katchouk and Matthew Spencer).

The Phil Kessel trade also could have been included, however they used the picks they acquired on Seguin and Dougie Hamilton, so the trade wasn’t necessarily bad.

No one is saying current Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney has done much better. He has offloaded Milan Lucic but he also butchered the Hamilton trade, as the first round pick he received wound up being Zach Senyshyn, who has done nothing. Sweeney also traded way too much for Rick Nash, who was less than stellar with the Bruins in the half-year he played in Boston (he gave up Ryan Spooner, Matt Beleskey, Ryan Lindgren, a 2018 1st round pick which ended up being Jacob Bernard-Docker, and a 2019 7th round pick). Sweeney hasn’t been overly aggressive in trades, but when he has, he has certainly whiffed on them.

Yet the Bruins keep doing Boston things, and that’s win with what they’ve got.

 

All stats via hockey-reference and hockeydb

All trade info via nhltradetracker

Featured Photo Image Credit: Nikos Michals

Edmonton Oilers

Edmonton Oilers: Thinking Outside the Box

The Edmonton Oilers have a big problem with Ryan Spooner.

That’s not news. The sky is blue, Connor McDavid is the most skilled player in the NHL, and you can still find me in the stands cheering on this team. Some things, unfortunately so in some cases, never change.

My weird love/hate relationship with this team aside the Edmonton Oilers find themselves trapped by one of Peter Chiarelli’s final moves (man does typing that feel good!). However now is the time to start correcting those mistakes and I think there’s an outside solution to the Spooner problem.

Buried in the AHL

It was announced on January 23, 2019 that both Kailer Yamamoto and Ryan Spooner were assigned to the AHL:

The former being there makes sense in the short term, as Yamamoto can play a few games in Bakersfield over the all star break or in the long-term. Personally I feel like Yamamoto should stay the rest of the season on the AHL so he can be a key cog in Bakersfield’s playoff push/run. The latter on the other hand is a different story. Spooner has failed so spectacularly in Edmonton that they no longer feel he is anything but a detriment to the team.

My first ever post on ThePuck77 was on Ryan Spooner and in it I stated that Edmonton needed to find a lineup spot for Spooner that works for him. I won’t go into too much detail on him here but my main points were:

  1. Ryan Spooner is not an offensive driver
  2. Ryan Spooner was, at his most successful, a good 3rd piece of a top 6 line.
  3. He benefited greatly from being on top power-play units
  4. He is a really ineffective possession player.

If you want more in depth analysis on Spooner check out my first piece on him here.

Someone Similar?

You would think this situation would be rare in the NHL. Not many teams employ 3+ million dollar men in the AHL…

But there is another…

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Yes that’s right I’m talking about Sam “8 points in one game” Gagner.

Gagner has been a very nice addition to the Toronto Marlies roster since being sent down. In 36 games thus far Gagner has 10 goals and 22 assists for 32 points. He definitely isn’t letting his demotion slow him down any. Even when he has played in the NHL he was not that poor. In 7 NHL games Gagner had 3 points, 1 goal, 2 assists. He has also been very good in terms of possession at the NHL level, posting a surprising 59.9% Corsi rating, and a 15.2 Corsi relative for rating. This, along with his 59.9% Fenwick for rating and 17.4 Fenwick relative for rating, paint a picture of a player who has more to give at the NHL level.

Gagner does a lot of things well that mesh with the Oilers needs right now. While he does have some warts to his game in regards to defending Edmonton at current needs a guy who is an offensive weapon. Gagner is a power-play, overtime, and shootout specialist. Put in the right situation; i.e on the left side of a Connor McDavid/Leon Draisaitl power-play, should result in increased success for Edmonton’s power-play.

Power-play Prowess

For example in 2016/17 he had 50 points, 18 of which came on the power-play. In 2017/2018, in his first year with Canucks (way lower teammate quality), he had 31 points, 11 of which were on the power-play.

In 2016/17 Gagner played on a unit with Zach Werenski, Nick Foglino, Cam Atkinson, and Alex Wennberg. on a much less successful Vancouver power-play Gagner played with a mix of Alex Edler, Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser, both Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Sven Baertschi, and Thomas Vanek. Vancouver struggled to find the right mix of players and eventually Gagner got lost in the shuffle. He ended up struggling to the point where he was demoted to the AHL at the beginning of this season.

Wherever Gagner goes he always finds a way on to that team’s power-play because that is where he excels. He is an extremely gifted offensive player who has a good shot and is extremely creative with the puck. The thing that he is the best at on the power-play is MOVING. The Edmonton Oilers power-play right now has stagnated. This is mainly due to the same issue that plagued them last year. They are too slow. they do not move the puck around enough to properly open up seams and lanes in an opposing team’s penalty kill. This kills them and they need a player like Gagner that can keep the puck moving on the power-play.

Is This Trade Realistic?

This is always the huge question with the hypothetical articles. It’s why I don’t enjoy making these speculation articles in general, do it wrong and you immediately can ruin your credibility as a writer. 

However in this case I think there’s a realistic possibility a trade like this could work. Right now at left-wing the Canucks employ Nikolai Goldobin, Sven Baertschi, Josh Leivo, Loui Eriksson, and Antoine Roussel. Goldobin has 23 points, Eriksson has 20, Leivo has 7, Baertschi has 13, and Roussel has 19. It’s safe to say they could use a boost. Edmonton currently employs Alex Chiasson, Milan Lucic, Jesse Puljujarvi, Jujhar Khaira, Tobias Reider, and I could go on at wing. Outside of Chiasson none of those players have 20 points, outside of Khaira, none have 15 points. Edmonton needs wingers bad.

So a swap of two players that both make almost exactly the same amount of money, that could potentially re-spark their careers makes a lot of sense. Gagner makes 50k more than Spooner at 3.15 million over the same amount of term. At current neither of Spooner or Gagner are going to see the light of day back in the NHL with their respective teams. It makes sense, at least to me to try to swap the two players in the hopes that they could re-find their offense elsewhere.

Wrap Up

The main reason this probably won’t happen is Vancouver and Edmonton are teams both currently in a dog fight for the last wildcard spot. While it would be an interesting trade as it would create a potential double rental situation if both Spooner and Gagner bounce back, the risk involved nixes that trade.

What do you think? is this trade realistic for both sides? leave a comment or find us on twitter at @ThePuck77 and me personally at @chayzdj.

All stats used in this article came from HockeyReference.com, Capfriendly.com, and HockeyDB.com.