The Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers swapped problem contracts on Friday. The Oilers send Milan Lucic down south for James Neal.
Talk about neat twist in the Battle of Alberta. In fact it has potential to really add fuel to fire in this intense rivalry.
First off, almost everyone thinks Edmonton has won this trade. For starters, Neal would appear to be the better bet to have a bounce back season. He is only one season removed from his last notable season. The Oilers lack of depth on the wings should see Neal get lots of opportunities to succeed and play with the likes of Connor McDavid, at least on the power play.
Edmonton is also considered to have instantly won the trade just by subtracting Lucic's contract. His $6 million a year contract is buyout proof and his no movement clause means he is automatically protected for the Seattle expansion draft.
That being said, I suspect there is some sort of side arrangement where Lucic has already agreed to waive his right to be protected for the expansion draft. Lucic wanted out of Edmonton, and probably had to make that concession to make this happen.
I actually think Lucic could turn out okay in Calgary. He will be cast in a role where he will succeed. His job will be clearly defined. The problem is that role where he can return to be a productive player will be as a bottom six forward, possibly a 4th line player. That is a problem for a guy who makes as much money as he does, and that's where the trade makes little sense from a Calgary point of view.
That being said, Calgary coach Bill Peters doesn't really care how much each player is getting paid. He just needs to put his players in positions to succeed and Lucic has to buy in first and foremost. But it will be a tough sell to the media and fans. And it might be a tough sell for the Calgary owners when they inevitably question GM Brad Teliving a couple of years from now why this deal went bad.
Trades between the two Alberta rivals are very rare. The first trade between the two was in 2010 when Steve Staios went to the Flames for a prospect. Ladislav Smid headed south in 2013. I believe those are the only two prior trades between these two teams before the Lucic/Neal swap.