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Milan Lucic: a deal, a decade in the making

by Chris Wescott / Edmonton Oilers

EDMONTON, AB - 2006: Milan Lucic’s draft year.

It’s kind of interesting to think the Edmonton Oilers would have held the 50th-overall selection in that draft, had they not moved it in a deadline day trade to bring in Sergei Samsonov. The Oilers made a run to the Final that year, and many likely forgot the pick they had traded in the aforementioned deal would be used by Boston to select Lucic.

The manager on the job when Boston made the pick? Peter Chiarelli, who took the position the month before.

Fast forward a decade and here we are. Chiarelli is now in charge of the Oilers hockey operations, and who would be his big-ticket, free-agent signing this off-season? You guessed it.

“I guess the Oilers were waiting 10 years for me to develop before I actually joined the team,” Lucic chuckled. “I think it’s pretty cool that fate has me on the Oilers after 10 years.”

Ten years is a long time to wait, but it was worth it for Lucic. Edmonton inked the winger to a seven-year deal at the opening of Friday’s free agent frenzy. The top player on the open market had many suitors — including teams offering longer term and more money — but he chose Edmonton.

“It’s very exciting for me and my family to be part of such a great organization,” said Lucic. “Obviously, there’s a lot of great history in Edmonton with the Oilers. It’s something that’s real cool and awesome to be a part of. To wear the same jersey as some of the game’s best ever is a pretty special thing. I hope I can do the best I can to help bring back the winning ways these Oilers fans deserve.”

Lucic had many factors contributing to his decision to sign in Edmonton. One of them, if not the biggest, was a young player by the name of Connor McDavid, who in 2006 was nine years old.

“Getting a chance to play with a player like Connor McDavid doesn’t come around too often,” Lucic said. “I think that’s what it ultimately got down to in making this decision. It was a chance to play with one of the best players in this generation.”

Lucic, who turned 28 just last month, is expected to flank McDavid this upcoming season. A match made in hockey heaven in the eyes of the veteran winger, who has 159 goals and 238 assists (397 points) in 647 career games. Tack on 64 points in 101 playoff appearances.

“I’ve been really lucky to play with great centremen in my career. Playing with (David) Krejci and (Patrice) Bergeron in Boston, then having (Jeff) Carter and (Anze) Kopitar in LA. I’ve been a little spoiled with the centremen that I’ve gotten to play with.

“But being able to play that give-and-go style and winning battles and getting pucks to (McDavid) where he needs them the most are the things I’ve been pretty good at. Getting the pucks in the players’ hands that are the best with it, and that’s what I plan to do if I get to play with him.”

In addition to McDavid, the state of the City, the downtown development and the new state-of-the-art Rogers Place arena helped Lucic pick his landing spot. But it was also his relationship to Chiarelli.

Photo by Getty Images.

“Having a past with him and having loyalty to him and knowing what he can do as a builder is something that I really trust and really look forward to,” the newly-signed player said.

Lucic’s full circle trip from Chiarelli in Boston, and back to him again in Edmonton, earned him a Stanley Cup along the way in 2011. The Vancouver, BC native has enough winning experience and passion for the game to become an important piece to the Oilers turnaround.

“He wants to win and that’s the big thing,” said Chiarelli. “I’ve seen him in winning situations and he’s what we need in that sense.”

When assessing his off-season so far, Chiarelli indicated Lucic is a key piece to the success of the roster moving forward.

“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.”

Lucic, in a way, is built to match up against the Pacific Division. He got a taste of it in 2015-16, scoring 20 goals and adding 35 assists in 81 games for the Los Angeles Kings.

The Lucic acquisition is another addition lining up with Chiarelli’s vision for the team. Lucic already joins the likes of 2015-16 newcomers Patrick Maroon and Zack Kassian. Edmonton also drafted a sizeable winger in Jesse Puljujarvi, and beefed up their defence by trading for Adam Larsson.

Photo by Andy Devlin | Edmonton Oilers

“When you’re looking at the Pacific Division that we’re in, you have to play that big, heavy, grinding type of game,” said Lucic. “You have to have that team toughness and that attitude that you’re feeling going into every game that you’re going to win. Knowing that you’re not going to be pushed around and being able to win those battles that happen throughout the games is definitely huge. I think, like I said, I know Peter’s commitment to making a change is something I don’t question at all. I have full confidence he’s going to put the best product he possibly can on the ice to win. I think this city and these fans deserve a winning team.”

In 2006, Lucic was drafted into the Boston organization by a first-year GM. A decade later, the two are reunited in orange and blue, on a team trying to reach the post-season for the first time since that year. Chiarelli has focused on adding players that fit the plan for the team, and he added another Friday who knows what’s lacking and how to change it.

“Just the consistency,” said Lucic. “It’s a long season and you’ve got to find spurts in the season when you have winning streaks, and when you go on a losing streak you have to have that hunger to get out of it as quick as possible. Having that attitude that you don’t accept losing and things like that is important, and the ability to do it as a team. I’ve always been a team-first guy.”

In 2006, the Oilers traded away a pick to help a playoff push. In 2016, that pick comes back to help in a new push for the post-season.

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