What a Lucic for Alzner Swap Would Look Like

No preface, it’s the NHL Trade Deadline day or for hockey fans, a day as exciting – perhaps even more so – as Christmas Day. And we’re hoping that it will be busy day… particularly the big network stations like TSN and Sportsnet who have their entire hockey crews on site twirling their thumbs on their smartphones doing just like us, waiting to 3:00 pm Eastern, the true deadline, when most of the deals will be announced.

I’ve touched about it in this very blog before, but I could see the Edmonton Oilers being a good trade partner to the Canadiens. Thanks to departed GM Peter Chiarelli, the Oilers are cash-strapped to the ceiling and are, once again, well on the outside of a playoffs’ spot. They should MUST unload some salary but the challenge that they have is their highest contract – aside from Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Oscar Klefbom – are all under-performing. The other issue is that in order to lower their cap, they have to keep their quality young labour and that’s why they should keep Jesse Puljujärvi, who has been somewhat of a deception so far.

The Canadiens have been trying hard to unload Marc Bergevin‘s biggest mistake, Karl Alzner, and his $4.625 million cap hit. In spite of what some people want you to believe, Alzner is not finished folks. His foot-speed is just not adequate for the man-to-man defense that Claude Julien has implemented on the Habs. In a zone defense, where he doesn’t have to follow players around, he can still be very efficient, not counting his short-handed and shot blocking abilities. Here is how Alzner’s salary is structured:

We know that Bergevin dodged a bullet when the Oilers gave Milan Lucic an extra year, beating the Canadiens’ offer of five years when the former Bruins became a UFA. So the interest was there. However, since then, Lucic has never been able to live up to the $6 million cap hit he was awarded by Chiarelli. He’s still decent defensively, can still skate well for a big boy and he is physical and intimidating. He just isn’t putting up offensive numbers. Here is how Lucic’s contract looks like:

In order for them to rid themselves of bad contracts, teams in today’s NHL have to be creative. We’ve touched on some of those creative ways for the Canadiens to unload Alzner’s contract before so let’s explore this option now. What if the Canadiens and the Oilers used some creativity and sort of helped each other out? For example, what if each team kept, let’s say, 50% of the players’ salaries? This is what it would look like:

Is this something Bergevin would be enticed to do? Could he possibly get an incentive from the Oilers – other than their 1st round pick or Puljujärvi – to do it? Would Lucic waive his no-movement clause to go to Montreal? Speaking of NMC, here is what CapFriendly.com describes would happen:

The clause can travel with the player even if he consents to being traded or is claimed on waivers:

  • This requires that the acquiring team sign an addendum to the contract ensuring that the clause does in fact travel with the player (written by the player’s agent)
  • If the acquiring team refuses to sign the addendum, and the player waives his clause anyway, at that point the clause may be nullified

Of course if you’re Bergevin, Lucic MUST agree to waive his clause otherwise, no deal. I think that this is something that could work but who am I to say? What we know is that those two teams will have to be creative in order to rid themselves of those salaries as buying them out would handicap them for longer than this type of trade. Last but not least, this is not necessarily a trade that has to happen right now, at the trade deadline. Or perhaps they could look at another possibility that we’ve discussed before, a deal around Kris Russell?

Regardless, let’s enjoy Trade Deadline day… although the action will likely happen at around 3:00 pm Eastern time. Go Habs Go!

Alzner’s Solution: A List of Bad Contracts

A wise man once said: “Some of the worst hockey decisions are made in July.” Who said that? None other than Marc Bergevin. He was obviously referring to some of the contracts issued to unrestricted free agents (UFA) when they hit the market. Yet, he too is human and he certainly is not immune to falling to the temptation of getting “free” help in an attempt to plug some holes in his team’s line-up. 

The last time he did it, he signed the most sought after defenseman in the pool that year, Karl Alzner, to a 5-year contract valued at just over 23 million dollars. We know the rest. Yesterday, in order to make room on their roster for the highly anticipated return of their team captain Shea Weber, the Canadiens’ management made a ballzy decision when placing Alzner on waivers for the purpose of sending him to the Laval Rockets in the AHL. Many things have to happen in order to make that decision and it wasn’t the decision of one man.

Karl Alzner might have played his last game with the Canadiens

For one thing, the Canadiens’ defensive struggles are well documented and no, it’s not all on Carey Price. Claude Julien didn’t have Alzner in his regular top-6 defensemen. Mostly, it took a General Manager to step on his pride, recognize his mistake and go to his boss to sell him on paying a player over four and a half million dollars to play in the minors. It also took Geoff Molson to not only agree to do so, but to trust Marc Bergevin and his management group that they know what they’re doing. Like them or not, it takes gutts (and deep pockets) to make such a decision, particularly that Alzner is, by all accounts, a true professional, a genuine “good guy”. 

“It was more a question of ‘who can we not lose’. There are many teams struggling on the backend and we have some guys who are cap-friendly and who would be easily picked up if placed on waivers. We protected ourselves because we like our depth. And because of his contract, Karl was the guy who would be the least likely to get picked-up.” ~ Claude Julien

Is a trade possible?

A Canucks’ fan tweeted something that intrigued me… he suggested to his Canucks’ fans friends that perhaps they should trade Loui Eriksson for Alzner. It got me thinking… Would it be possible for the Canadiens to trade a bad contract for another bad contract? Let’s have some fun here folks. Let’s play GM. I put together a list of bad contracts. Unfortunately, I don’t have the players’ stats but trust me, in all cases, those guys are disappointments to their teams (or I should say, I believe they are). Here’s the list:

  • Corey Perry (ANA) $8.625M – 2020-21 (NMC)
  • Bobby Ryan (OTT) $7.25M – 2021-22 (NMC)
  • Evander Kane (SJS) $7M – 2024-25 (Mod. NTC)
  • Dion Phaneuf (LAK) $7M – 2020-21 (Mod. NTC, NMC)
  • Ryan Kesler (ANA) $6.875M – 2020-21 (NMC)
  • Kevin Shattenkirk (NYR) $6.65M – 2020-21 (Mod. NTC, NMC)
  • Derek Stepan (ARI) $6.5M – 2020-21
  • Milan Lucic (EDM) $6M – 2022-23 (NMC)
  • Loui Eriksson (VAN) $6M – 2021-22 (NTC)
  • Johnny Boychuk (NYI) $6M – 2021-22 (NMC)
  • Erik Johnson (COL) $6M – 2022-23 (Mod. NTC, NMC)
  • David Backes (BOS) $6M – 2021-22 (NMC)
  • Ryan Callahan (TBL) $5.8M – 2020-21 (Mod. NTC, NMC)
  • James Neal (CAL) $5.75M – 2022-23
  • Marc Staal (NYR) $5.7M – 2020-21 (NMC)

So as a reminder: Karl Alzner (MTL) $4.625M – 2021-22 (Mod. NTC)

How would a motivated Lucic look against the Bruins and the Leafs?

Could any of those teams need Alzner if the Habs picked up their bad contract? Could the teams do like the Canadiens and the Golden Knights and be creative by picking up some of each others’ cap hit as they did for Max Pacioretty and Tomas Tatar to make it happen? 

Here’s an example which may or may not be realistic. The Edmonton Oilers are desperate on defense. Milan Lucic just can’t do himself justice with the Oilers. If Edmonton were to pick up, let’s say, $2.5 million of his cap hit (for the length of his contract until 2022-23), and the Habs kept $1.5 million of Alzner’s contract (until 2021-22), could a trade happen?

Got any brilliant ideas? Discuss below if you’d like. In the meantime, let’s enjoy the return of our captain, Man Mountain himself! Go Habs Go!