Well-substantiated discussions are on that the Oilers are looking to trade Milan Lucic. After coming off his worst season in memory, a scoring-drought over over 40 games, and him admitting his confidence was down and needs to get faster, you'd have to ask can you blame anyone on either side for having a look?
A straight buyout on his 5 x $6.0M AAV salary is dumb.
Ryan Rishaug from TSN 1260 doesn't think a trade is doable and they should see how the next year goes.
David Staples at the Journal's Cult of Hockey think trading him is a possibility, as there still is a market for tough guys (see Tom Wilson).
I think Chiarelli is weighing his options to see what the market is for him.
Lucic knows he needs to be better, gain confidence, become leaner and faster. His humility here is important. Both Kassian and Maroon leaned up, why can't Lucic?
All this though, I also believe that Lucic is simply disappointed that he couldn't find chemistry as McDavid's left wing with Maroon taking that spot and at $4.5m less to boot. When Maroon was traded, I bet management pressured McLellan to try Lucic there again. Well, it didn't work out at all. Then finally, Nuge was put there while Lucic was with Draisaitl on the 2nd line.
Further to that, Lucic's time on the 1st powerplay unit, where he scored most of his goals two seasons ago, ended.
I think those two factors are where he lost his confidence.
But let's back up a sec.
The Oilers powerplay was horrendous last season under Jay Woodcroft (and the penalty kill certainly made the special). With new assistant coaches, they can only improve, right?
Manny Viveiros' powerplay record as coach of Swift Current in the WHL was over 29%. He believes in movement and quick passes--totally opposite of what the Oilers did last year--standing around, holding on to the puck, and forced passes. I submit if they put Puljujarvi on the left half-wall to fire away, they'll be more successful as well. And perhaps Viveiros sees Lucic slotting back in here to cause havoc in front of the net and getting some garbage and tip in goals. Having Benning as a righty to McDavid's lefty makes for easier passes between two.
Ideally though, you'd want a righty where Lucic is as well so Draisaitl can easily pass to him or McDavid from behind the net. Maybe Strome?
Puljujarvi - Lucic - McDavid
Five on five will a Lucic - Draisaitl - Puljujarvi line finally work or does it need more speed?
With Slepyshev heading to the KHL, Pakarainen gone, and the unlikely resigning of Mike Cammalleri, the forward line up is a bit skimp. If they don't sign a UFA right winger, I can't see anyone else but Yamamoto taking a spot out of camp.
Nuge - McDavid - Rattie
Lucic - Draisaitl - Puljujarvi
Aberg - Strome - Yamamoto
Caggiula - Khaira - Kassian
Other than Nuge, that's not exactly a team that's strong on the wings like it used to be with only three real veterans on there (Nuge, Lucic, Kassian). With that, my guess is they make a play for a UFA right winger as there appears to be a preference by Chiarelli to have an older veteran guy in the lineup.
So who can they afford?
RFAs to resign (my guess):
$11.5m + $58.3m = $70.3m leaves them with about $8-10m in cap space.
That's certainly enough to sign a UFA winger, say James Neal from Vegas? But it doesn't leave much room to sign another bottom six forward or coveted right shot defensemen unless you trade Klefbom for it as well.
So what about Looch?
There's still room for him on this team and he must bounce back if he wants a future in the league with that contract.