Nashville Predators Free Agent Outlook: Milan Lucic

Los Angeles Kings left wing Milan Lucic (17) . Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
Los Angeles Kings left wing Milan Lucic (17) . Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports /

The Nashville Predators have the opportunity to bring one of the league’s biggest hitters (and names) to Smashville.

Milan Lucic made his name smashing the opposition and filling the stat sheet with one of hockey’s most legendary franchises, the Boston Bruins, before heading out west to play amidst the bright lights of L.A. as a King. Lucic and the term small-market have grown to be something of antonyms.

On-ice, however, the 27-year-old and Smashville hockey go hand-in-hand. The Predators have had hard-nosed grinders, and they now have some top-tier offensive prowess- but Lucic brings it all in one package.

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The Canadien left-winger marked 55 points this past season, reaching 20 goals for the fourth time in his career and adding 35 assists while earning a +26 plus/minus rating- 9th best in the league. The forward tacked on 244 hits, good for 11th most in the league, and a mark around which he holds consistently.

What Does He Bring to Smashville?

The possibility for this top line: Milan Lucic, Ryan Johansen, James Neal. That should give you the good shivers. Or this look down the left-wing side: Milan Lucic, Filip Forsberg, Colin Wilson (for this fantasy-oriented purpose, we’re seeing Playoff Colin Wilson adopted as a full-time persona).

A weakness immediately becomes a strength. Imposing questions of scoring depth are dampened. The ever-improving Calle Jarnkrok is able to move from left-wing to take a role at center, answering any possible question marks at the position.

Lucic adds grit to a roster that has become perceived as finesse-oriented (sans Captain Shea Weber). The addition of the high profile player continues to expand Nashville’s growing fan base and gives them the piece they need to take the jump to the next level- because Lucic has been that piece before, and has hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup.

Nashville Predators
Los Angeles Kings forward Milan Lucic (17). Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports /

What Will He Cost?

Time for those smiles to turn down a bit. Lucic carried a $6 million cap hit last season- a good deal more than Nashville’s top-earning forward James Neal, who cashed in at $5 million. And it’s not likely he sees a drop in wages.

Free agency inflates the value of free agents, and a name like Milan Lucic will command big dollars. There are 30 teams out there who could use a player of his caliber, most of which are set in bigger hockey markets than Nashville, and a few of which are more desperate for talent.

If the Predators feel he is the piece they need to put them over the top, he will be the highest-paid forward on the roster as it now sits- though whether it would fall on the north or south side of the Forsberg contract remains indiscernible. It would be reasonable here to assume that Lucic would be considered the less-valuable asset of the two.

Should He?/Would He?/Could He?

The Nashville Predators priority must lie with resigning Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen (next year), and James Neal (a year after that). That being said- the Predators currently have the 5th-most cap space in the league, pre-Forsberg deal.

After dumping Eric Nystrom’s contract in one form or another, Nashville should be looking at money that could sign a big name if and only if they feel confident in retraining the ability to resign Johansen and Neal in the coming seasons. Milan Lucic fits the bill on the ice, but off the ice that bill may be too large.

If Lucic can somehow be wrangled into a Neal-esque deal around the $5 million mark and Forsberg takes a hometown discount (not likely, seeing as how it’s his first chance to grab real money), then the Predators could pull the trigger that ices the most lethal team the franchise has ever seen.

Is this event likely? I lean towards no- keeping an eye on the future. But GM David Poile does appear to believe the team is only a key piece or two away from being a Cup contender, and strange things have been happening with roster management ever since Head Coach Peter Laviolette has taken over.

Next: Preds in World Cup

It’s important to realize that these numbers and figures are what keeps a team competitive and exciting year after year- mishandle your cap and you’re in the dark ages. This has all the makings of an incredibly interesting off season, with the franchise future hanging in the balance.