Newly acquired Los Angeles Kings left winger Milan Lucic is about to embark on his first professional season outside of a Boston Bruins uniform, but he might already have his sights set on a third professional home come 2016-17.
In a recent interview with TSN 1410, Lucic, a Vancouver native, was asked about whether or not he’d ever come to his hometown to suit up for the Canucks, and Lucic didn’t write off the possibility of him skating alongside some of the same players he watched his then-Bruins defeat in the 2011 Stanley Cup final.
"I honestly don't know what's going to happen moving on," Lucic told TSN 1410. "I mean I have one year left on my contract, and there's a possibility that I can hit the [unrestricted free agent] market. It's obviously something that's been a dream of mine since I've been a kid, is to play in your hometown and play for the Canucks, but right now the main focus is going down to L.A. and trying to make the most of that.”
As Lucic points out, he has only one year remaining on his current three-year, $18 million deal and with the Kings needing cap space next season to sign star center Anze Kopitar and keep space open for restricted free agents-to-be Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli, Lucic could become a salary cap casualty.
His current cap hit with the Kings is $3.25 million, which is little more than half of the full hit thanks to the salary retention by the Bruins. On a new deal, Lucic is probably set to earn somewhere in the $6 to $7 million range — a slight raise on his current value. Even if he has a bad year, he’s likely still worth at least the $6 million cap hit his current deal carries.
For the Kings, re-signing Kopitar is priority No. 1. That said, Los Angeles is set to have nearly $19 million in cap space at season’s end. Of course, Kopitar’s deal will eat a sizeable chunk of that free space, but it doesn’t entirely rule out a return to the Kings for Lucic, if he wishes to come back.
As for the Canucks, they have high-priced veterans Radim Vrbata ($5 million), Dan Hamhuis ($4.5 million) and a few other roster players coming off the cap this off-season. All told, Vancouver could have somewhere in the range of $17 million free next season with no major re-signees on the horizon.
He also fits a mold the Canucks haven’t had since Todd Bertuzzi. He’s a big power forward who can dominate with his size and he’d be loved in Vancouver. The Canucks went out and got Brandon Prust this off-season, but having someone like Lucic to fill the bruising, checking role would be a plus, especially considering the offensive upside Lucic has.
When, or if, Lucic hits the open market in 2016, there will realistically be a bidding war for his services. There’s no doubt more than a handful of teams would love to have the three-time 20-goal scorer in their lineup and, should Lucic not re-up with Los Angles, those teams will get the chance come July 1. Vancouver could very well be one team that reaches out.
As for this season, Lucic has his mind set on winning another Stanley Cup and helping the Kings capture their third in five seasons.
“If you look at the roster, we’re still a really deep team that has another chance to make a Cup run,” Lucic told TSN 1410. “Right now, I’m more worried about that than anything else.”