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The Oilers' disappointing season has sparked speculation over what move general manager Peter Chiarelli might make to get his club back on track. With the NHL Draft weekend (June 22-23) fast approaching and the trade rumors churning, there's talk he could be quietly shopping left wing Milan Lucic.
Signed as a free agent in 2016, Lucic played a key role in helping Edmonton end its 11-year playoff drought in 2017. This season, however, the 30-year-old power forward's production slipped from 50 points to 34. He also seemed to struggle against quicker opponents.
Lucic's contract could be a sticking point. He carries an annual average salary of $6 million through 2022-23, along with a full no-movement clause.
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported Lucic appears to be working with management to determine his trade value. He said there's no basis to rumors claiming the winger asked to be dealt. TSN's Frank Seravalli also indicated the Oilers are talking to teams about Lucic, saying they could be willing to take back another contract or perhaps package Lucic with another player or a draft pick.
If the Oilers decline to take back a toxic contract, interested parties could insist they absorb part of Lucic's annual cap hit. Teams are allowed to retain up to 50 percent of a player's annual cap hit. Despite concerns over Lucic's contract and production, the Edmonton Journal's David Staples feels “somewhat optimistic” the Oilers could find a trade partner. He suggested some NHL general managers still value size, toughness and previous performance.
Staples' colleague Jim Matheson is skeptical, however, suggesting the only way the Oilers can move Lucic is to take back another expensive contract and include a draft pick or prospect as a sweetener.
The Canadiens and Canucks reportedly tried to sign Lucic two years ago. Mathias Brunet of La Presse suggested the Canadiens propose taking the big winger off Edmonton's hands provided they agree to package him with their first-round pick (10th overall) in this year's draft. Staples, however, doesn't see the Oilers agreeing to that poison pill.
Teams with the cap space to absorb Lucic's contract include the Coyotes, Hurricanes, Devils, Islanders, Rangers, Canucks and Golden Knights. It remains to be seen if any of those club have interest in Lucic or if they're on his list of preferred trade destinations.
Capitals face big decision on John Carlson
While the Capitals are in the midst of celebrating their Stanley Cup championship, GM Brian MacLellan won't have much time to enjoy it as he faces a big decision regarding the future of defenseman John Carlson.
A nine-year Capitals veteran, the 28-year-old Carlson is slated to become an unrestricted free agent July 1. He led all NHL defensemen with a career-high 63 points in the regular season and 20 during the playoffs.
Carlson, completing a six-year, $23.8 million contract, is due for a significant pay raise. He'll command at least $8 million on the open market, the rumored price for Oliver Ekman-Larsson and the Coyotes. Potential suitors would include the Golden Knights, who fell in five games to the Capitals in the Stanley Cup Final.
Re-siging Carlson could affect the Capitals' efforts to re-sign their other free agents. They currently have over $63 million invested in 16 players.
Defenseman Michal Kempny and center Jay Beagle are also UFA eligible, while backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer and forwards Tom Wilson and Devante Smith-Pelly are restricted free agents with arbitration rights.
Even with the salary cap projected to reach $80 million for 2018-19, MacLellan won't have much wiggle room. Assuming it costs $8 million to keep Carlson in the fold, the Capitals GM will have less than $9 million to re-sign or replace his other free agents.
A cost-cutting trade or two might be in order. ESPN.com's Emily Kaplan suggested shopping winger Andre Burakovsky, who has a year remaining on his contract with a $3 million cap hit. Another option could be buying out the final season of defenseman Brooks Orpik 's contract.