The Blue Water Cafe is the new Italian Kitchen and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robinson is the Vancouver Canucks’ newest Mariano Rivera-style closer, according to a variety of reports surfacing from the often ahead of the game News 1130 Sports Twitter account.
News 1130 Sports reported on Tuesday morning that the Canucks met with unrestricted free agent winger Milan Lucic at the Blue Water Cafe – the same restaurant the club reportedly used to pitch Drake Caggiula on joining their club back in May – on Monday night, at a dinner that was attended by Jim Benning, Trevor Linden and Francesco Aquilini. The club even had the mayor drop by, presumably to outright offer his position to Lucic should the former Vancouver Giant and apex predator power forward opt to join his hometown team.
The details are fun, but taken together, what the trickle of news positively suggests is that the Canucks are all in on pursuing Lucic in free agency.
While the Canucks’ interest in Lucic isn’t surprising, it also isn’t remotely unique. Lucic is in Edmonton to meet with the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday, according to a report from Pierre LeBrun. And Sportsnet’s Mark Spector is reporting that Lucic’s camp may meet with as many as four teams while talking to as many as 10 during the negotiating window prior to July 1.
Lucic is a singular presence on the ice, genuinely the prototype of the modern power forward. He’s a guy that can reliably produce 50 points (or more) per season, occasionally touch 20 goals, and convert on a high percentage of his shots from the slot. Lucic’s underlying numbers have atrophied somewhat with age, but the production and that bull-in-a-china shot approach to scoring from slot remains. When combined with the physical package he offers, Lucic is going to cost an arm and a leg.
READ MORE – Canucks Army free agent profiles: Milan Lucic
There is signifiant risk though in signing a player whose two-way effectiveness has already shown signs of decline to the sort of contract that will probably be required to outbid teams like the Oilers, not to mention the eight other unnamed suitors.
And it seems to be Edmonton that’s at the forefront of the Lucic discussion for the moment, particularly as the big power forward is visiting the North Albertan city at the moment. And it’s been widely assumed that Lucic may be more well disposed to signing in Edmonton than Vancouver for a variety of reasons.
“Certainly Edmonton is a primary consideration,” opined Bob McKenzie on TSN 1040 on Tuesday morning, summarizing the Lucic situation and Edmonton’s all-around desirability to free agents. “When you take Conner McDavid and the new rink and a guy like Bob Nicholson… who knows a little something, something about making presentations and how to sell yourself… you’ve got three factors that suddenly make Edmonton maybe the no. 1 most desirable free agent for a free agent like Milan Lucic.”
One thing to keep in mind in regards to Lucic is that more than most players, he really follows the league. He knows what the media markets are like and the pressures that are inherent to them. I mean, if he were to sign in California then fans wouldn’t treat him like the Sasquatch by posting papparazzi style videos him standing on the street or walking in an airport to social media like they’ll do in Vancouver:
— JM (@jmerdha) June 27, 2016
And in Edmonton…
— Micheal (@amershtay) June 28, 2016
The Canadian markets are super intense and everything gets blown a bit out of proportion – especially at this time of year – when it comes to the Oilers and the Canucks. So we might do well to take the giddy reports surfacing on Twitter this week in stride.
Based on conversations I’ve had over the past week, there’s some behind-the-scenes skepticism about whether Lucic would prefer to sign in a Canadian marketplace. The sense seems to be that Edmonton and Vancouver are certainly in the running for Lucic, but may top out as secondary destinations – behind the Anaheim Ducks.
Based on Lucic’s own public comments and the genuine desire his camp seemed to have for working out an extension with the Los Angeles Kings, we can infer that Southern California endeared itself to Lucic and his family during the year he spent playing in L.A.. Also the fit is obvious, with Ducks general manager Bob Murray going out of his way to discuss that his primary offseason need is a left wing. And if winning is a priority for Lucic, then Anaheim blows both Edmonton and Vancouver out of the water on that front.
I’d suspect that before this week is out, the Ducks will be a significant part of this discussion.
The big question about Anaheim though will be the money. Will they be able to offer what teams like Edmonton and Vancouver might? It’s hard to imagine.
The Ducks rarely carry more than $60-65 million in salary on their roster in any given season, according to the historical data at NHLNumbers.com. Currently they’re carrying over $58 million in salary and that’s with deals still to work out with key restricted free agents Hampus Lindholm and Rickard Rakell.
Its been reported that at the Blue Water Cafe meeting on Tuesday night, the Canucks and Lucic didn’t exchange term or salary figures, which would suggest that the discussions, for now, are exploratory and about fit.
Once the cash is on the table though, there’s a widespread suspicion that the Canucks will be willing to outbid other suitors in chasing Lucic. Bidding aggressively on the market for a 28-year-old who has spent his career playing a physical brand of hockey and relies on brute strength and other youthful attributes to produce is a dangerous space to play in, but with so many teams in the mix, it’s clear that the money is going have to talk. And talk more convincingly than even Mayor Gregor can manage.