The Los Angeles Kings made a big splash last off-season when they acquired Milan Lucic from the Boston Bruins for Martin Jones, Colin Miller and a first-round pick, but it looks like Lucic’s tenure as a King will be one-and-done.
ESPN’s Pierre LeBruin reported Wednesday afternoon that Lucic, 28, has decided to head to free agency come July 1. Not long after LeBrun’s initial report, he added that Kings GM Dean Lombardi confirmed Los Angeles has not been able to come to terms with the hulking winger and that Lucic and his agents have officially been given the go-ahead to begin talking to the league’s 29 other teams about a potential free agent deal.
By hitting the open market, Lucic is almost certain to be one of the two or three highest-paid players in the current free agent crop. It’s a mortal lock that Steven Stamkos will sign the biggest deal of any free agent, but Lucic, along with Kyle Okposo and David Backes, is in a good position to earn himself a huge payday.
Lucic was brought in to Los Angeles this past season to provide the same brand of physical hockey that made him a fan favorite in Boston, and there’s no doubt that he met expectations. After scoring 18 goals and 44 points in 81 games with the Bruins in 2014-15, Lucic did that one better in Los Angeles, notching 20 goals and 55 points in 2015-16. It was the fourth-highest scoring season in Lucic’s career, and he seems as though he could be the perfect fit for a more offensively minded club looking for a power forward.
On his three-year deal that just ended, Lucic earned an average of $6 million per season, per CapFriendly, and he could very well see himself get a modest increase on that in free agency.
There has been some suggestion he could be a fit in Vancouver, where he could play for his hometown Canucks, but signing Lucic could mean GM Jim Benning has little extra money to improve his roster elsewhere. But there are a number of fits beyond Vancouver. The Edmonton Oilers would present Lucic with the interesting opportunity to play with Connor McDavid and a cast of players that has for years felt ready to break out.
To be sure, any team with the cap space to entertain bringing in Lucic will do so. Over his past three seasons, he has 62 goals and 158 points and has only missed four games while playing a physical brand of hockey. Teams will covet him, and Lucic stands to be highly sought after come July 1.