Los Angeles Kings star power forward Milan Lucic would be the hottest commodity on the free agent market if it weren't for a young man named Steven Stamkos, whom we presume is destined to don a new uniform come July 1st.
Lucic, as of this writing, has not signed a new contract with the Kings, even though both sides had worked increasingly hard during the season to reach a deal. Here's the thing: The Kings probably can't afford to meet his demands and, with Lucic turning 28 years old, this is his last chance to cash in. He absolutely deserves to be paid $6-7 million a season and there's likely no way the Kings are going to be able to reach those numbers.
Though the NHL doesn't see many power forwards these days, Lucic is one of the few that remain. He's a sure bet to score 20 goals a season and can throw his weight around. He was a huge ingredient in the Boston Bruins winning the 2011 Stanley Cup. His size and demeanor slowed down and wore out the skilled Vancouver Canucks.
Lucic is one of those free agents that could probably pick his team, provided he were to take a pay cut. Of course, no one expects that to happen. He's going to get paid and it'll have to come from a team that can afford it.
Given how he already has a Cup, he may not feel the need to take a discount to join a contender. So let's take a look at the eight best possible landing spots for Lucic and why it makes sense to join each of them.
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16 Dallas Stars
The Stars are an offensive machine, oiled by the dominant duo of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Patrick Sharp and Jason Spezza supply excellent secondary scoring, but the Stars were still dispatched by the St. Louis Blues in the second round of the playoffs.
Part of that was because they couldn't match up with the Blues' physically. It was easy for Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk to wear down the Stars' top offensive playmakers. If Milan Lucic goes to Dallas, their top stars will be protected with his size and physicality.
15 Benefits of Playing in Dallas
Milan Lucic would be on one of the most offensively-stacked teams in the NHL. In Boston and Los Angeles, he didn't get to do as much scoring, given how both teams have put more emphasis on defence.
Put him with Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Jason Spezza and/or Patrick Sharp, and it's not out of the question to think he could score 30. He's scored 20 with forwards like Patrice Bergeron and Anze Kopitar, who are busy occupying the other teams' top stars.
But Lucic could take his offense to a new level with the star power in Big D.
14 Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings keep making the playoffs...and getting bounced in the first round.
Clearly, relying on undersized forwards Pavel Datsyuk, Gustav Nyquist, Justin Abdelkader, and Tomas Tatar isn't helping. It's easy for a Wings' playoff opponent to throw their weight around and tire out their top stars.
Enter Milan Lucic, who would be joining a team with a winning tradition and would bring plenty of size, which is something they lack.
13 Benefits of Playing in Detroit
Guys like Milan Lucic are useful in the playoffs. He's built for going on deep playoff runs with his high-energy play and style. Same as the possible scenario in Dallas, Lucic would be skating on Detroit's top line and would be able to stand up to the opponents who hassle Detroit's top stars.
Detroit also has plenty of cap space, and if they move out Jimmy Howard and Pavel Datsyuk's contract if he leaves for Russia, they'd have all the money in the bank to bring in the Stanley Cup champion.
12 Anaheim Ducks
The Ducks are coming off another surprising Game 7 home loss and it's clear some big changes are needed if they're going to find a way to make it back to the Stanley Cup.
Why not add Milan Lucic? Along with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, that would be one of the most dangerous lines in hockey. Anaheim has a good amount of size, but guys like Getzlaf and Perry can focus on scoring and not throwing their weight around. That role could be left for Lucic.
11 Benefits of Playing in Anaheim
Don't let their last few playoff meltdowns deceive you, the Ducks still have plenty of time left in their championship window. With Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, Cam Fowler, Sami Vatanen, and Hampus Lindholm, they can still contend for more Cups.
Milan Lucic would join a team that can afford him and give him the chance to win. Like we said, his offensive numbers would skyrocket on Anaheim's first line.
10 St. Louis Blues
The Blues were able to use their toughness and more physical play to shut down the Stars in Round two, but the San Jose Sharks were even bigger and badder, and dispatched St. Louis in six games.
So what's the catch? St. Louis needs size. A guy like Milan Lucic is all St. Louis needs to have all of the elements in place to make a run at the Cup next season.
9 Benefits of Playing in St. Louis
Vladimir Tarasenko, Alex Steen, Patrik Berglund, Paul Stastny, Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Jaden Schwartz round out one of the league's deepest rosters.
Milan Lucic could slot in perfectly on one of the Blues' top two lines. With David Backes likely to hit the free agent market, the Blues will have some cap space on their books and may feel compelled to replace him with a player of a similar style, but with a higher upside.
Enter Lucic, who would get paid and have an excellent chance of contending for multiple Cups with the Blues.
8 Montreal Canadiens
You're reading this correctly.
Yes, for Milan Lucic, it makes perfect sense for him to join a team that he has a huge rivalry with. As a member of the Bruins, he faced off against the Habs in four playoff series' that were fuelled by bitterness and hatred.
But the Canadiens are coming off their biggest disaster of a season in recent memory. Changes are needed and Lucic could be that spark to bring more faith to the impatient fan base.
7 Benefits of Playing in Montreal
It's amazing how the Habs have ignored size. This is not a team like the Chicago Blackhawks that are so deep with talent that they don't need big guys to compete and win championships.
The Habs always rely on undersized forwards to do the work and it can be easy for opponents to bully them. The Canadiens really need a guy who can score and use his physicality to help his defense.
Montreal is capable of contending for Cups with Carey Price, Max Pacioretty, and P.K. Subban, but if they could add a physical scorer like Lucic, all would look great for this team heading into 2016-17.
6 Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers have shifted away from their days of being The Broadstreet Bullies. They're no longer a team that uses tough goons and guys like former defenceman Chris Pronger to use size and dominate opponents.
They're a more skilled, undersized team with the likes of Jakub Voracek, Brayden Schenn, Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, and others.
It'd be ideal for them to bring back the element of playoff hockey that their fans got to know best: Hard hitting, in-your-face style. Milan Lucic would fit the bill and bring that to the table.
5 Benefits of Playing in Philadelphia
The Flyers have a terrific amount of offensive depth and no team since the lockout has enjoyed handing out so many lucrative contracts.
Milan Lucic would join a team loaded with scoring weapons. His numbers would skyrocket with Claude Giroux and co. The Flyers aren't quite a Cup contender, but they're very close to that. Adding Lucic would get them closer and he could definitely be a useful component in the playoffs.
4 Vancouver Canucks
Milan Lucic has expressed a desire to play for his hometown team, despite the rivalry his former Bruins squad had with the Canucks.
Vancouver has plenty of salary cap space and Jim Benning will surely try everything in his power to bring a big name to the roster. The interest and faith from the fans is dwindling, so it's critical they add a guy like Lucic before it's too late.
3 Benefits of Playing in Vancouver
Even though Milan Lucic made an enemy in the Sedin twins, he'd be able to form a dangerous line with them.
Daniel and Henrik somehow keep scoring in their mid-30s when defenses are focussing solely on them. Those two take a beating every game and they've never had the tough guys to protect them.
Lucic on a line with the Sedins would be lethal. He'd surely reach 25-30 goals a season playing with them and would be able to defend them. Even if the Sedin line is just a pipe dream, he'd help speed up the rebuilding process for a team he dreamed of playing with as a child.
2 Edmonton Oilers
Reports came out recently that the Oilers will make a run at Milan Lucic.
This team has been rebuilding for 10 years and there's no end in sight, with the end being when they're going to start contending for the playoffs. Such is life when you hoard first-overall picks and use them all to select underachieving and undersized forwards.
Connor McDavid and the other youngsters need some protection and mentoring from guys like Lucic.
1 Benefits of Playing in Edmonton
The Oilers may finally see some progress with the development of Connor McDavid. There is plenty to like on offense, but they've lacked size for years. It's no surprise their top stars keep getting hurt.
They need to bring the Marty McSorley effect, where he protected Wayne Gretzky during the Oilers dynasty days. A guy like Milan Lucic would score a lot, bring key leadership and, most importantly, look after the smaller players.
Edmonton has more than enough space to bring in Lucic, and perhaps he'll feel compelled to become the big brother who watches over his new team as he tries to get the Oilers out of the basement.
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