By: Kevin Perry | Follow Me on Twitter @Kevperry_
As the NHL’s free agency period opens up in about a week and a half pending, free agents and teams are planning on what moves to make for next season. One particular player who is an unrestricted free agent with ties to the Boston Bruins is former Stanley Cup Champion Milan Lucic.
The Calgary Flames have permitted the 35-year-old winger to speak to teams ahead of July 1st, when free agency officially begins. In an article that dropped Wednesday morning from The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun, Lucic did not rule out a possible return to Beantown.
LeBrun wrote, “Let’s just say it: A reunion with Boston sure would be a fun storyline.” Of course, the favorite fan Lucic returning to where his career began would be a neat storyline, but how would Lucic feel about a possible reunion?
“Obviously, it’s a special place for me, and it will always be a special place for me, but we’ve got what, 10, 11 days to see what happens (before July 1)? We’ll see what happens and then go from there.”
Lucic was a part of two cup runs with the Bruins in the early 2010s. He contributed in both playoff runs with 12 points in 25 games in Boston’s victorious 2011 Stanley Cup and 19 points in 22 games in the 2013 Cup final loss to Chicago. Lucic had the best years of his career in Boston, with his best year being the 2010-2011 season eclipsing the 30-goal mark, the only time he’s done so in his career.
After leaving Boston in June 2015 via a trade to the Los Angeles Kings, Lucic continued his productive play, scoring 20 goals with 35 assists helping the Kings make the playoffs. After signing with the Edmonton Oilers in 2016, Lucic had another 50-point season.
Lucic’s play since that season has been on a steady decline. Although he wants to continue playing after winning the gold medal at the IIHF World Championships a few months back, would his fit be good in Boston?
Bruins Offseason Concerns
The Bruins have many concerns when it comes to this offseason. They have many key free agents they need to resign, all while only having five million or so in salary cap space. The Bruins still await decisions from Captain Patrice Bergeron and veteran center David Krejci. If they return, adding another player on the back nine of their career would not make the most sense.
If Bergeron and Krejci do not decide to return to the Bruins, the Bruins have multiple young players in Providence who are primed to make the jump to the NHL level. Although Lucic is a winger, that is the position at forward where the Bruins have enough depth to get by.
Pros To Signing Lucic
Touching upon the youth movement that looks to be entering Boston next season, you can make the case that a seasoned veteran like Lucic would benefit from having him on the team. He is a hard-nosed player who has been a leader for every team he’s been on and has a Stanley Cup pedigree. In that sense, Lucic would be a good addition, as Brad Marchand is the only other player who has won a cup before.
Lucic would come in on cheap money, looking to jump in with a contender who could use a big-bodied power forward. Hockey fans just saw the Vegas Golden Knights win their first Stanley Cup with a really big and physical team, so there is still room for players like Lucic in hockey today.
Ultimately, if you were to lose players this offseason, like Tyler Bertuzzi, Trent Frederic, and Garnet Hathaway, the Bruins’ physical presence at forward would be diminished. Ultimately, it is unlikely that all three of them would leave, but if that does happen, signing Lucic would fill the physical void left by those players.
Why Signing Lucic Would Hurt The Bruins
As mentioned, Milan Lucic is on the back nine of his career. His numbers have decreased consistently each season, and he has not been in the plus in plus-minus rating since 2015-16. His speed has never been a big component of his game either, and with over 1,100 NHL games played, that is a lot of miles on a player who plays the style of hockey that Lucic does.
The two big factors in why signing him, from the Bruin’s perspective, would be taking money away from potentially keeping a key player and that the Bruins have enough prospects in the pipeline to come in and play right now. The salary cap issue for the Bruins is tough because they have so many potential outcomes on what to do. They must prioritize which players to keep, which ones to move to make money to keep other guys, or which guys to let test the market and see what happens. With all that going on, they should focus on retaining their current talent instead of bringing others in.
Regarding the prospect coming up, Lucic would be taking playing time away from them. Players like Jakob Lauko, Georgii Merkulov, Fabian Lysell, Marc McLaughlin, and John Beecher could all play some role on the team next year. They all will probably be playing in the bottom six when they are in the lineup next year, so adding another bottom-six forward like Lucic would take away from their development.
In theory, it would be nice for Lucic to return to where he started and finish his career here, but the current state of the Bruins might not allow that to happen. I’m not saying it would be a bad move or impossible, but the Bruins would have to lose a decent amount of players in free agency to consider making a move on Lucic. Having the fan-favorite return to wind down his career would be nice, but I don’t see it that likely.