What a Lucic for Alzner Swap Would Look Like

No preface, it’s the NHL Trade Deadline day or for hockey fans, a day as exciting – perhaps even more so – as Christmas Day. And we’re hoping that it will be busy day… particularly the big network stations like TSN and Sportsnet who have their entire hockey crews on site twirling their thumbs on their smartphones doing just like us, waiting to 3:00 pm Eastern, the true deadline, when most of the deals will be announced.

I’ve touched about it in this very blog before, but I could see the Edmonton Oilers being a good trade partner to the Canadiens. Thanks to departed GM Peter Chiarelli, the Oilers are cash-strapped to the ceiling and are, once again, well on the outside of a playoffs’ spot. They should MUST unload some salary but the challenge that they have is their highest contract – aside from Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Oscar Klefbom – are all under-performing. The other issue is that in order to lower their cap, they have to keep their quality young labour and that’s why they should keep Jesse Puljujärvi, who has been somewhat of a deception so far.

The Canadiens have been trying hard to unload Marc Bergevin‘s biggest mistake, Karl Alzner, and his $4.625 million cap hit. In spite of what some people want you to believe, Alzner is not finished folks. His foot-speed is just not adequate for the man-to-man defense that Claude Julien has implemented on the Habs. In a zone defense, where he doesn’t have to follow players around, he can still be very efficient, not counting his short-handed and shot blocking abilities. Here is how Alzner’s salary is structured:

We know that Bergevin dodged a bullet when the Oilers gave Milan Lucic an extra year, beating the Canadiens’ offer of five years when the former Bruins became a UFA. So the interest was there. However, since then, Lucic has never been able to live up to the $6 million cap hit he was awarded by Chiarelli. He’s still decent defensively, can still skate well for a big boy and he is physical and intimidating. He just isn’t putting up offensive numbers. Here is how Lucic’s contract looks like:

In order for them to rid themselves of bad contracts, teams in today’s NHL have to be creative. We’ve touched on some of those creative ways for the Canadiens to unload Alzner’s contract before so let’s explore this option now. What if the Canadiens and the Oilers used some creativity and sort of helped each other out? For example, what if each team kept, let’s say, 50% of the players’ salaries? This is what it would look like:

Is this something Bergevin would be enticed to do? Could he possibly get an incentive from the Oilers – other than their 1st round pick or Puljujärvi – to do it? Would Lucic waive his no-movement clause to go to Montreal? Speaking of NMC, here is what CapFriendly.com describes would happen:

The clause can travel with the player even if he consents to being traded or is claimed on waivers:

  • This requires that the acquiring team sign an addendum to the contract ensuring that the clause does in fact travel with the player (written by the player’s agent)
  • If the acquiring team refuses to sign the addendum, and the player waives his clause anyway, at that point the clause may be nullified

Of course if you’re Bergevin, Lucic MUST agree to waive his clause otherwise, no deal. I think that this is something that could work but who am I to say? What we know is that those two teams will have to be creative in order to rid themselves of those salaries as buying them out would handicap them for longer than this type of trade. Last but not least, this is not necessarily a trade that has to happen right now, at the trade deadline. Or perhaps they could look at another possibility that we’ve discussed before, a deal around Kris Russell?

Regardless, let’s enjoy Trade Deadline day… although the action will likely happen at around 3:00 pm Eastern time. Go Habs Go!

Could the Oilers and the Habs Help Each Other?

One team is in the West, desperate to make the playoffs according to their owner. The other one is in the East, jousting for a playoffs’ position. The first one has just fired their General Manager and they find themselves with their hands tied, strapped to the salary cap. The other has nine million and can afford to pay. But neither is deep enough at any position to sacrifice top talent to make things happen, and neither team is willing to move their young quality assets and high draft picks to improve this year. Dilemma…

As we touched about in a recent article, the Edmonton Oilers are in a bind and have been for quite some time and that, in spite of having two of the best young players in the entire NHL in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. The have finally fired GM Peter Chiarelli and team owner, billionaire Daryl Katz was recently quoted saying that missing the playoffs was not an option. At the All-Star break, his team is only three points out of a playoffs’ spot but they have five or six teams to leapfrog in order to make it happen.

Peter Chiarelli was fired by the Oilers

Marc Bergevin and his Montreal Canadiens are in a much better position. The Habs have surprised most people by overtaking the Boston Bruins and trailing the mighty Toronto Maple Leafs by a single point, amid having played a couple more games than their rivals. And they have done so without quality defensemen on the left side, and certainly none worthy of top minutes playing alongside Shea Weber. Sophomore Victor Mete, who even was sent down to the AHL’s Laval Rocket earlier this season, is Weber’s current partner and he’s doing okay. Imagine if they found someone for that role and if they could improve on their league worst powerplay…

Like the Oilers, the direction is clear when asked about the team’s goals as Bergevin recently addressed the topic.

“I’m always going to be listening to options, but the goal is to build for the future. Just to give up assets for the short-term, I’m not going to do it. It would have to be very appealing. If there are young players available, assets have to go. I get that. But, I don’t think I’ll be in the rental business.”
“Based on what I saw in Vancouver [at the WJC], the future of the Canadiens is very bright. I’m not going to start mortgaging the future. I know what’s coming with the World Juniors, who they’re going to be asking for, and I’m not moving these kids. It’s going to be a short conversation, I think… If we drafted these kids, it’s because we believe they have some potential. That came to the forefront in Vancouver with our prospects that really stepped up their games.”
~ Marc Bergevin (January 7, 2019)

An Oilers / Canadiens trade?

First and foremost, forget Darnell Nurse. He’s not going anywhere. If I’m the Oilers, I also try to avoid trading Oscar Klefbom and I am reluctant giving up so soon on top prospect Jesse Puljujärvi. His value is too low right now, the Oilers don’t have much to lose by giving him time to find his game. So who’s left in Edmonton? First, a trade must help them. Their number one goal right now is clearing some cap space. The have a few contracts that they might or would consider unloading in order to prepare for more moves.

Milan Lucic$6M – NMC2022-235012
Kris Russell$4M – NMC2020-21409
Ryan Spooner$3.1M2019-20415
Brandon Manning$2.25M2019-20354
Zack Kassian$1.95M2019-20479

Everybody knows that they would like to unload Milan Lucic but it would take a whole bag of sugar to sweeten the pot enough to make it happen with anyone and I certainly don’t think that the Habs are a good match. Ryan Spooner is a project with some upside, Brandon Manning is a dime a dozen and Zack Kassian… well, been there, done that.

Kris Russell is an interesting candidate however. No, he’s not a “sexy choice” and no, he’s not a permanent solution. When I made the suggestion on Twitter, some were adamant against him but I have a feeling that few of those people have watched him play enough to make a valid judgment. You see, my girlfriend is an Oilers’ fan (we won’t hold that against her) and I got to watch them often this season. Here’s my take on Russell TODAY…

Kris Russell

Kris Russell is a mobile, puck-moving and shot blocking veteran defenseman. He plays with confidence with the puck and he also owns enough offensive acumen to play on the power play and moves the puck with aplomb. He has great wheels. A lack of size (5-10, 170 lbs) can occasionally hinder his ability to defend bigger forwards but he usually positions himself well and has a good stick. He is no all-star (nor is he getting paid like one) so he will be prone to mental lapses from time to time. He is currently fourth in the entire NHL in blocked shots with 107 and that, with 10 fewer games played than most of his competitors.

What I do know however is that at this point in time, Russell is an improvement over Mike Reilly, Jordie Benn, David Schlemko, Karl Alzner, Xavier Ouellet and arguably Mete too. While he’s not the sexy choice, a Canadiens’ defense with Russell is superior (and deeper) than it is today without him. Period. So at the right price, he would help the Habs. He is 31 years old, so he will be 33 at the end of his contract. By that time, Alexander Romanov will be ready to step in on the Canadiens’ blue line. The cap? The Canadiens don’t have any major contracts to renew during Russell’s term. It’s a none-issue.

The deal: I think that something along the lines of Charles Hudon would get it done, give or take on one side or the other. The question: are the Canadiens a better team with Russell or Hudon? Asking the question is answering it.

Granted, there are other options. But what I’m offering here is one that seems to be a good stop-gap at a very low cost. Go Habs Go!