Fantasy Take: Lucic and Neal Swapped One For One

by Ian Gooding on July 19, 2019


According to multiple sources, the Edmonton Oilers have traded left wing Milan Lucic to the Calgary Flames for left wing James Neal

The obvious angle here is that this is an exchange of overpaid, underperforming wingers by the two Alberta teams. Lucic has four more years on a contract with an AAV of $6 million, while Neal also has four more years on his contract with an AAV of $5.75 million.
 


Neal struggled mightily during his only season in Calgary, scoring just seven goals and 19 points over 63 games. Some of that had to do with a reduced shot total (141) resulting from fewer minutes (14:57), but Neal’s issues were compounded by a meager 5 percent shooting accuracy, well below the career sniper’s average of over 10 percent. Prior to that, Neal averaged 26 goals over his previous five seasons, so there’s the possibility of at least a minor rebound, especially if he receives more favorable deployment in Edmonton (hint, hint, Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl) than he did in Calgary.

At the time of his signing, Neal was discussed as the possible third man on the Johnny Gaudreau/Sean Monahan line, but his most frequent linemates in Calgary were Sam Bennett and Mark Jankowski. That deployment may have been related to a rumored rift with coach Bill Peters, who even healthy scratched Neal for the Flames’ elimination Game 5 in their first-round series with Colorado. Neal also had the misfortune of being acquired in the same offseason as Elias Lindholm, who instantly gelled with the Gaudreau/Monahan unit.

Lucic’s struggles go back even farther, as he has scored a combined 16 goals over his previous two seasons. In fact, the wheels completely fell off for him at the start of 2018:

First half of Edmonton stint: 121 GP, 32 G, 44 A, 76 PTS, 29 PPP, plus-3

Second half of Edmonton stint: 122 GP, 7 G, 21 A, 28 PTS, 6 PPP, minus-27

(Source: Edmonton Journal)

Lucic still brings it in bangers-and-mash leagues, averaging 85 PIM and 256 hits over the past two seasons. Top-line deployment and first-unit power-play minutes seem very unlikely in Calgary, given his lack of productivity over the last season and a half. However, he could give the Flames an added boost physically to their bottom 6 as well as more toughness.

Players this helps, in order:

Neal (a fresh start and more likely to rebound offensively than Lucic)

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (if Neal lines up on the second unit)

Lucic (just a fresh start)

*

Fantasy owners are already discussing this trade – give your take here!