The Stanley Cup Finals reinforced my belief that having a tough, physical, and punishing forward in your lineup is not just a good thing but a legit need. Tom Wilson of the Caps and Ryan Reaves of the Knights proved that no spreadsheet or formula will fully capture what they bring to a team’s feeling of security and confidence on the ice. That goes two-fold for skilled players and kids.
Protecting the Kids
This upcoming campaign the Rangers will likely have one of the youngest teams in the league. Simply by putting in Filip Chytil and Lias Andersson, they will have 2 players under 20 in their lineup to start the season. Should the Rangers draft someone in the 1st round they deem NHL ready, it could be three. While that sounds great, there is not a single Blueshirt in the lineup to protect and give them some freedom on the ice.
The Rangers management is very aware of the problem. On April 9th, Rangers General Manager Jeff Gorton was on ESPN’s The Michael Show, and said this when addressing the Rangers lack of toughness in 2017-2018 season: “I agree and it does have to be addressed. We do want to be a team that plays harder and in the last couple of months we were void in that area and it became more and more clear and it’s something that will be addressed.”
So is Lucic the answer? From a player standpoint, it’s a resounding yes on many levels. However, his contract carries a $6 million dollar cap hit for the the next 3 seasons which is a major drawback. Still with all the Rangers cap space availability, it may not be the worst move they can make.
Editor’s note: correction on Lucic’s contract, it goes to 2023. For the next 3 seasons he has a full no trade which becomes a modified one after.
While Lucic had a bad year last season (34 points), he still has shown the ability to contribute to a team’s offense. There is no reason why he can’t bounce back and be a 20 goal, 50 points winger again. And since we opened up with the effectiveness of Tom Wilson and Ryan Reaves in these playoffs, they don’t hold a candle to Lucic’s production.
Lucic on the Block?
Reports out of Edmonton believe that Lucic could be moved. David Staples writes that the Oilers are optimistic that a team would be willing to trade for Lucic this summer. He notes that Lucic has a full no move clause, but could be open to being dealt. Another Oilers writer, Jim Matheson thinks the Oilers would have to take on a big contract back to facilitate the deal.
Taking both these insights into account, what if the Rangers could move Marc Staal for Lucic? Staal has a 5.7M cap hit until 2021 and it could be a fit. That is of course if he is willing to move on to Edmonton with his modified no trade clause. One other trade possibility, is a deal where Edmonton eats some salary, but the Rangers send over more valuable assets in return.
Another, albeit slim possibility is the Oilers buyout Lucic and the Rangers make a run at him this summer in the UFA market. Either way, of all potential “tough guys” that are known to be available this offseason, Milan Lucic is the cream of the crop and may be a perfect choice for protecting the younger Blueshirts.
Other Notable Possibilities
- Leo Komarov
- Antoinne Roussel
- Chris Stewart
- Ryan Reaves