According to a report this week, the Calgary Flames are exploring whether to offer Milan Lucic an extension.
Well, I didn’t say it was a groundbreaking report.
Of course the Flames are evaluating the veteran’s value.
Why wouldn’t they at least consider bringing their beefy winger back? (Or, since we’re on the topic, have regular internal discussions evaluating potential contracts for anyone on an expiring deal. That’s just good business).
Yes, it’s true Lucic was a popular name on the NHL trade market this summer. But it had nothing to do with the team wanting to rid itself of the veteran. And once they shipped Sean Monahan’s $6-million-plus salary out, they had the salary cap clearance they needed to add Nazem Kadri to the roster in free agency.
That’s working out just fine. Kadri has been the Calgary Flames’ most dominant player so far. And Lucic has been one of the steadiest.
So much so, that the wrecking ball has found himself on a line with Elias Lindholm and Tyler Toffoli the past few days, with Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter tinkering to spark some of the others. (Case-in-point, a “paralyzed” Jonathan Huberdeau.
And while both Lucic and Kadri were victims of a couple of terrible turnovers that ignited the Seattle Kraken’s comeback victory on Tuesday night, they’ll get another shot with their new linemates when the Flames host the Nashville Predators on Thursday.
Second chances, and all that.
Lucic’s entire stint with the Flames has been a second chance after he found his career dying a slow death in Edmonton, where the Oilers structure, or lack thereof at the time, made the straight-line player’s role a little too abstract.
There’s clarity in Calgary, where Sutter wants Lucic to stay on the right side of the puck and push it up the ice to tire out the opposition. A few body blows along the way are a bonus.
But Lucic’s real value may be as a locker-room leader. One of the Stanley Cup core — along with Trevor Lewis, Blake Coleman, Toffoli, and now Kadri — Lucic frequently reminds the younger Flames what it takes to win it all.
There’s no doubt the 34-year-old would like to stick around in Calgary. The team signed Huberdeau and defenceman MacKenzie Weegar to eight-year extensions this summer. Kadri inked a seven-year pact. A solid group of up-and-coming defencemen make this a team with real potential to win in the next few seasons.
So what will it take to sign the big leftie from B.C.?
A lot less than the $6-million salary cap hit he currently carries (although the Oilers are eating three-quarters of a million of that this year). Lucic makes $1M per season with a $3M signing bonus. Much of what is saved on the books from his departure or more financially friendly next deal will be eaten up to pay the Huberdeau and Weegar raises. Huberdeau alone jumps nearly $4M. Weegar another $3M.
With Noah Hanifin, Chris Tanev and Nikita Zadorov all set to become UFAs after next season, the Calgary Flames will have to get creative, or become very active on the NHL trade market once again.
This time, they won’t need to worry much about Lucic’s cap cost — regardless of how their evaluations end.