“We all know what he brings.”
Milan Lucic doesn’t even have to skate a single shift at an Oilers practice, and the players on the roster already know all about him. The veteran of nearly 700 NHL games was the team’s big free agency signing, and his reputation precedes him.
“I’ve never played on his team, but I’ve played a lot against him,” said Oilers winger Matt Hendricks. “I’ve played in playoff series against him when I was in Washington and he’s a beast. We need more of that. I’m excited that he’s coming, because he has that top-line mentality. He can play those big minutes, the top power play, first line, he has a lot of success there and he brings another element to our team that I think is very important.”
Hendricks spoke with media members at the Oil Country Championship Celebrity Pro-Am on Monday. He, along with other Oilers representatives voiced their opinions on the off-season moves. Lucic was a popular topic, even with one of the newest members of the team. Defenceman Adam Larsson, whom the team traded for a month ago, is used to playing against the opponents’ top lines. Therefore, he knows how tough of an opponent Lucic is and what kind of presence he can bring when he’s on your side.
“Obviously, he’s one of the toughest forwards in this league,” said Larsson. “It’s good to have him on your own side. That’s going to be fun.”
Lucic has 159 goals and 397 points in 647 regular season games. He also has 64 points (26-38-64) in 101 playoff games.
The Oilers aren’t done looking for ways to improve their roster, but they did conclude their free agency spending on day one feeling much better about the state of the team.
Oilers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Peter Chiarelli patched a big hole on defence by adding defenceman Adam Larsson via trade before free agency opened. On Friday, the Oilers added a top-line winger in Milan Lucic to help fill the void left by Taylor Hall’s exit in the Larsson trade. Chiarelli also added backup goalie competition by signing Jonas Gustavsson, and some physical blueline depth for the farm with Mark Fraser.
“We’ve improved our team significantly,” said Chiarelli. “We’ve added what I assess as a top defenceman. He’s going to be a two at some point, Larsson. We’ve added Milan Lucic, who is going to help lead this team. He’s going to play a physical style of hockey, he’s going to score, he’s got a really nice set of hands. We lost a really good player, Taylor, and who was a real significant part of this team but I feel we improved by the style of player we’ve brought in and the approach to the game.”
As for adding another defenceman or making another move, that may come down the road.
“I’m really happy with what we’ve done the last few days,” said Chiarelli. “I’m gonna let the dust settle a little bit before we go out looking again. But really happy with what we’ve done. There’s been some change and some attitude change based on what we’ve done and, at this point and time, I’m quite satisfied.”
Milan Lucic was one of Peter Chiarelli’s first draft picks as general manager of the Boston Bruins in 2006. Now the two are reunited in Edmonton, after Lucic signed a seven-year deal with the club on the opening day of free agency.
That relationship played a part in reeling in the big fish of free agency.
“It helps. It helps a lot,” said Lucic. “Obviously, I got to spend eight years with him in Boston and he’s always been great to me and he’s always put the right pieces in place at the right time. It definitely is a vote of confidence when you know the GM is going to do the right thing to benefit the team. I think that’s the main thing, is making the team better and not always individuals better. Because it’s a team sport, the best team usually wins. He’s going to do whatever he can to make sure he has the best team.”
Chiarelli used the shopping period to reconnect with an old friend and rekindle that Boston bond.
“That made his visit a lot more comfortable and it was also fun just to reconnect,” said Chiarelli. “Once I left Boston, I didn’t really have the chance to see or talk to anybody. I always enjoyed my time talking to him in Boston and I like to hear his thoughts on the game and on players. He knows all the players in the league and how they play and stats. Very insightful guy.”
It just so happened the prior relationship also made it easier for the free agent to sign in Edmonton.
“There’s a lot of familiarity there with me and Milan,” said Chiarelli. “You can tell he’s a very sincere individual and he’s a terrific, impactful player. He’s going to change a lot of things here just by the way he plays and the way he leads. I’ve known him for a long time. I’ve seen him grow as a person, and I’m so excited to have him here.”
Chiarelli showed Lucic and his wife the new arena, they walked the downtown area and spoke about the city. But in the end, Lucic was sold on Chiarelli and the young talent on the roster, making it an easy choice despite being offered more money and longer term by other teams.
“It doesn’t surprise me one bit,” said Chiarelli. “He’s not in it for the money, and I know you hear that with every free agent signing. It doesn’t surprise me. You’ll learn that Milan is like that. It doesn’t surprise me.”
They may not be familiar with each other – yet – however, Jonas Gustavsson knows of new teammate Cam Talbot’s path to the Oilers. Edmonton signed Gustavsson to a one-year contract to compete with Laurent Brossoit for the club’s top backup spot behind Talbot.
Gustavsson knew of Talbot when he played for the New York Rangers behind Henrik Lundqvist. When the Rangers starter went down with a vascular injury, Talbot went 16-4-3 with a .929 save percentage. That kind of promise made him a trade target for Edmonton, who acquired him at the 2015 NHL Draft.
Talbot went on to have a more than solid second half of the season for the Oilers last year, and is the entrenched number one now. Gustavsson recognizes Talbot’s rise and is excited to join the Oilers goalie room.
“Everyone saw what he did behind Lundqvist there,” said Gustavsson. “He proved he deserved to play more minutes than he did there, especially when Lundqvist was injured. I remember he played a lot of big games for the Rangers. He got the chance to come to Edmonton. To be honest, I didn’t see the games he played but from what I did see and what I heard he had a really good first year there.
“So he’s obviously a great goalie I can learn from and hopefully I can share some of my experience as well. I’ve been fortunate to have a chance to work with some good goalies in the past like last season with Tuukka Rask, a couple good goalies in Detroit and in Toronto. I’ve been fortunate to have the chance to play with a lot of good goalies. The more goalies you get a chance to play and work with, the more experience you get and this is another opportunity to learn and hopefully share some stuff too.”
The Oilers signed goaltender Jonas Gustavsson to a one-year contract on day one of the free agent frenzy, Friday.
The netminder has played 172 games in the NHL during his career, with stops in Toronto, Detroit and Boston. He had a .908 save percentage and 11-9-1 record last season with the Bruins.
Gustavsson is expected to compete with Laurent Brossoit for the backup spot on the Oilers, and he’s well aware of where he can make an impact.
“So far I’ve been having a great summer off the ice,” said Gustavsson. “I feel like I’ve been in better shape than I have been in the past. Things are going the right way so hopefully I can translate that into something positive on the ice as well. For me, I know I’m supposed to be a guy when the goalie needs a break or I’m needed, I’m just going to go out there and try and win as many games as possible. That’s what it’s all about. In the games you play, you want to be a factor in the team taking that next step and winning as many games as possible. That’s just what I want to be. I want to be one of those guys you can always count on.”
The Edmonton Oilers have signed winger Milan Lucic to a seven-year contract on the opening day of the free agent signing period.
Lucic, a native of Vancouver, BC, has played 647 career regular season games in the NHL for the Boston Bruins and Los Angeles Kings. The 28-year-old has 159 career goals and 238 assists for 397 points, and 851 penalty minutes.
In 101 NHL playoff games, Lucic has 26 goals and 38 assists for 64 points. He won the 2011 Stanley Cup Championship in 2011 with the Bruins. Oilers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Peter Chiarelli was the GM of Boston at the time.
Oilers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Peter Chiarelli spoke to the media following the trade to give his perspective. Chiarelli called it a “need-based” trade, bringing in a potential top-pairing, right-shot defenceman, which is something the Oilers were very focused on acquiring this off-season.
On Thursday, Devils GM Ray Shero spoke with Bob Stauffer on Oilers Now to give his thoughts on the trade. He feels it’s a trade that both teams greatly benefit from, while the Oilers have a bigger margin of error due to their depth up front.
“It’s quite obvious (Chiarelli) was looking for a defenceman and it’s quite obvious how hard it is to get a defenceman, let alone under term,” said Shero. “With getting Adam Larsson, Adam is 6-3, 220 pounds and he is a heavy player. He’s young, he’s an incredible pro. Outside of Connor McDavid, I’m not trading him for anyone else. That’s difficult to get.
“Peter has been doing this for a lot of time and he’s smart. I can’t speak for him, but he’s trying to build a team. In the salary cap system, it’s not about if you trade two for one the best team won the deal by getting the best player. It doesn’t happen anymore. It’s about a team, it’s a team game, a salary cap and you have to have the assets. With Peter, he’s got more margin for error in this deal than I do because of all the guys they’ve got coming up front and now drafting a pretty good Finn fourth overall.”
By moving Larsson, the Devils are now without the player who played the second-most average minutes on the roster and one who paired with Andy Greene to match up against the toughest competition.
“I don’t have the margin for error on defence by trading Adam Larsson. I don’t have that depth yet. Then, for Taylor Hall, I’ve got to take that chance in terms of where we need to go and become a successful team. But again, now I’m faced with a hole on defence that I didn’t have a couple days ago. At the end, a little pain for both teams probably but that’s why it should pay off for both.”
Although Shero traded him in the end, he’s still a fan.
“I’m really a huge fan of Adam Larsson,” he said. “I had him one year and this kid is not going to disappoint you. Expectation wise, I wouldn’t compare him to Taylor Hall. It’s completely different. But you’re building the team you want to build from the back end, the big, heavy player who is a true pro, who plays against the top players, who kills penalties and he can bring some offence. We never put him in that role because he was always a shut-down guy with Andy Greene here. I think you’re going to be pleasantly surprised.”
The Oilers have acquired 23-year-old defenceman Adam Larsson, in exchange for Taylor Hall.
”I’m pretty shocked right now, but the overall feeling is I’m kind of excited to come to Edmonton,” said Larsson, speaking on Oilers Now following the announcement.
Larsson has played 274 regular season NHL games since being taken fourth overall in the 2011 NHL Draft. He has 69 points (9-60-69) in those games. He’s played five in the post-season, scoring one goal.
In 2015-16, Larsson played 82 games for the New Jersey Devils. He scored three goals and added 15 assists for 18 total points. He had 77 penalty minutes and was +15, which was tied for the team lead.
Larsson was 45th overall in the league in time on ice per game at 22:30, which was good for second on the Devils this past season.
Larsson is 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, and is a native of Skelleftea, Sweden.
More information to come.
The Oilers have issued a qualifying offer to one of their restricted free agents; defenceman David Musil.
Musil, 23, was taken 31st overall in the 2011 NHL Draft. He has played four NHL games in his career, all during the 2014-15 season. In 2015-16, Musil played 67 games for the Bakersfield Condors in the American Hockey League. He recorded 14 points (3-11-14) and 39 penalty minutes.
Earlier Monday, Edmonton signed forward Iiro Pakarinen to a one-year contract.