The craziness of free agency may have died down, but there were still a few notable storylines in the NHL last week. We saw one of the more interesting trades in recent memory that seems even on paper but is most certainly not. There was a major change in number as well as a very large extension. Also, the NHL’s newest team finally named a GM.
1. Lucic-for-Neal Swap
New Edmonton Oilers general manager, Ken Holland, provided us with one of the most interesting trades of the summer. On Friday, the Oilers agreed to send forward Milan Lucic to the Flames for forward James Neal in a one-for-one swap. Lucic had to waive his no-trade clause for the deal to become official. Both players are 31-years-old and have four more years remaining on their contracts. Lucic has a cap hit of $6 million and Neal sits just a tick lower at $5.75 million.
On paper, the swap seems pretty even but I think it’s obvious that the Oilers won this trade. The worst-case scenario for the Oilers would be that both players amount to nothing throughout their contracts. Edmonton would still save a bit of cap space which is a plus. But the Oilers knew that had to do everything possible to get rid of Lucic. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl will only be young for so long and they needed to add more talent around their superstars. Lucic is a depreciating asset as he is coming off the worst season of his career finishing with six goals and 20 points. He makes way too much money to provide that little scoring.
Yes, Neal is also coming off the worst season of his career having scored a career-low in goals and points with six and 19 respectively. The reason I think this a steal for Edmonton is because Neal’s awful season feels like a fluke. I think the Oilers could see that and are betting that Neal can bounce back to contribute more throughout his deal than Lucic will. That would be an obvious win for Edmonton if they can get more production for roughly the same price.
I have no idea what Calgary was thinking. Not only do they now have less cap space, they signed a player that has will be more difficult to trade because of a No Movement Clause in his contract and is more expensive. It was obvious that the Flames lacked physicality in last year’s playoffs when they were ousted in the first round by the Avalanche. But Lucic is not a good enough player anymore to make that much of an impact on a series. Not to mention that Lucic and Neal are similar enough players. Calgary also has a bevy of RFAs they need to ink to long-term deals, most notably Matthew Tkachuk. Now they have less cap space to do it.
Unless the Flames can dump Lucic to a bottom feeder team without giving up too much or he revives his career, it’s hard to see the Flames come out on top with this trade. Props to Ken Holland for doing the impossible and trading Lucic away. If he’s lucky, Neal will have a bounce-back season and he can trade him too.
2. Nylander Changes His Digits
Last Monday, Maple Leafs’ forward, William Nylander, announced via Twitter that he would be changing his number from No. 29 to No. 88. Nylander wore No. 88 during his time in the Swedish Hockey League while playing for Modo. He also wore it this summer at the World Championships.
Not only did Nylander announce he would be changing his number, but he offered to pay for all fans with his No. 29 sweater to have it renumbered at Real Sports Toronto. I’m a big fan of this move by Nylander. Most athletes are pretty generous with their money and do a lot in their community, but it’s nice to see a player show that he cares about the fans. Nylander needs all the support he can get after his lengthy holdout last year. I know there are a lot of fans that were upset with him, especially after he is sucking up a ton of cap space they need to re-sign Mitch Marner. Hopefully, Nylander can prove to the fans he’s worthy of his contract and will make them feel proud to wear his new No. 88.
3. Burakovsky’s New Deal
If you’re a fan of the Avalanche, you were probably a little disappointed this offseason. You just watched your team make a surprise run to the Conference Semi-Finals and the biggest move they made was trading star defenseman, Tyson Barrie. Thankfully for the Avs, they have plenty of time to add to their roster. After they ink Mikko Rantanen to a new deal, they will still have plenty of cap space to sign multiple big-name players next season or trade for one before the seasons starts. They have that luxury because of Nathan MacKinnon’s team-friendly deal that carries a $6.3 million cap hit for the next four seasons. The Avs made a few notable underrated moves this summer that I think will help their team in the future. One of those was acquiring forward Andre Burakovsky in a trade with the Washington Capitals for a 2020 second-round pick, a 2020 third-round pick, and prospect Scott Kosmachuk. I know this is old news, but I thought it was one of the more underrated deals this summer.
Burakovsky will be a nice piece for the Avalanche, especially after they traded Alexander Kerfoot to the Maple Leafs. He was a great depth forward for the Capitals during their run to a Stanley Cup victory and has a ton of talent. No, he hasn’t matched the typical expectations for a first-round pick yet, but I think he will be able to grow as a player and eventually be able to score 20-25 goals in a season. The Avs inked him to a one-year $3.25 million contract for next season and he will still be an RFA next year. So, there wasn’t much of risk. If Burakovsky can become a key member of the Avalanche’s core, I think Colorado will have a really good shot to compete for Stanley Cups in the next year or two.
4. Trouba Finally Has Long-Term Home
The Jacob Trouba trade saga is officially over. After years of trade speculation, Trouba was finally traded to the New York Rangers this offseason. With only one year left on his contract, there was still doubt of where he would be playing his hockey next season. The Rangers didn’t leave much time for guessing as the two sides agreed on a seven-year $56 million contract. Trouba will carry an $8 million cap hit and will hit free agency once again at 32-years-old.
I think this is a good deal for both sides. No, Trouba won’t be worth an $8 million cap hit for the first year or two. But this deal was made on potential. Trouba is only 25-years-old and already has a 50-point season on his resume. Considering most defenseman hit their peak later in their careers, Trouba’s play will probably not tail off at the end of this deal. That’s what makes it a good one for the Rangers because they will get Trouba for his best seasons. I do think Trouba has to prove his value defensively as he never had to play top minutes in Winnipeg. For Trouba, he finally gets the big contract he was looking for and gets to play in the United States. One of his main reasons for wanting out of Winnipeg was because his fiancée is about to start her residency and his playing in Canada would have made that very difficult. Good for Trouba for looking out for his family and getting a massive paycheck along the way.
5. Seattle Has Their GM
After months of speculation, the NHL’s newest franchise will be led by NHL Hall of Famer Ron Francis. The Seattle based franchise which remains nameless will play their first game starting in the 2021-22 season. Francis will have massive expectations after the unprecedented success of the leagues’ last expansion team, the Las Vegas Golden Knights, went all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals in their first year.
Francis does have experience as a general manager. He was the GM of the Carolina Hurricanes from 2014-2018 before being fired by new owner Tom Dundon. The Hurricanes were not very good during his tenure, never won more than 36 games and never made the playoffs. Francis’ time in Carolina wasn’t all bad. He was the GM that selected Noah Hanifin and Sebastian Aho in the same draft, grabbing Aho in the second-round. Francis is going to need that eye for talent is he has any shot at replicating what George McPhee did in 2017 expansion draft. ■
Blake Isaacs is a die-hard Red Wings fan that doesn’t go to as many games as he should. He is also a big fan of 7-Eleven Slurpeees, Chipotle, and all things Michigan State. Follow him on Twitter @bisaacs1995.