The Flames and Oilers may have become pioneers in the ways of NHL trades today, completing the Milan Lucic–James Neal trade with an extraordinary condition on the draft pick included by Edmonton. In addition to sending Lucic to Calgary, the Oilers also retained part of his salary and added a conditional 2020 third-round pick to the deal. It took some time, even after the formal announcement, to reveal what those conditions were. The first, which is very specific but not unheard of, is that Neal must score 21 goals next season. The second is somewhat more convoluted: Neal must also score 10+ more goals than Lucic next season as well. By all accounts, a conditional pick transfer based on two players’ performances relative to one another has never before been attempted in the NHL. Yet, it has immediately turned some heads and has many asking whether this is the future of trading. Will we begin to see other general mangers hedging their bets by sending conditional picks based on whether or not the trade works out as expected? If both teams agree to the deal, wagering on whether one player will outperform the other, then there does not seem to be a problem. It can be added insurance for the team adding the player who would be expected to be better on paper, while being a nice scenario for the other, who either get a draft pick or an unexpectedly strong performance out of their new acquisition. It seems to be a classic win-win-win, wherein both teams win and we the viewers win by having another story line to follow throughout the year. The Flames and Oilers may have opened the door to a new line of through when it comes to conditional draft picks.
- Now that Lucic and Neal are on new teams, the question becomes how long will they stay in these new locales if their play does not improve. Many thought the Oilers would never be able to trade Lucic’s contract, so it’s hard to imagine that the Flames would be able to if his struggles continue next season. However, a buyout remains an unsavory idea next off-season as well. The move would cost Calgary $4.8MM/$3.5MM/$4.8MM in the first three years, which is hardly a savings from his now-adjusted $5.25MM cap hit. Neal is another matter on both both points though. Even if Neal has another bad season, one would imagine that his trade value would not be totally gone give the astonishing consistency he played with for most of his career until landing with the Flames. An Oilers team that could very well miss the playoffs again next season may not be a fair metric either as to whether or not Neal is truly done. However, if a trade market does not develop, a Neal buyout is somewhat palatable for Edmonton. Next summer, a buyout would cost $1.92MM each year for six years. It’s not an ideal scenario, but for a cap-strapped team looking to open their championship window, a penalty of less than $2MM for six years may not hurt as badly as $5.75MM for three years.
- Now that this trade is final, the rumors of a Lucic-Loui Eriksson swap can finally be put to rest. One of the most popular rumors this off-season, the disgruntled Eriksson wanted out of Vancouver and Lucic was open to the idea of a return to his hometown, prompting many to suggest the former Boston Bruins stars could be exchanged for one another. Yet, Sportsnet’s Rick Dhaliwal asked Lucic today if at any point he had been approached about waiving his No-Movement Clause for a move to the Canucks. His response: “No never. There was never a trade to Vancouver as far as I’m concerned.” It seems that a deal, including Eriksson or anyone else, never actually came together to bring the native power forward home. Lucic is in Calgary now, but Eriksson and the Canucks are both still hoping to find a new home for the veteran forward before next season.