There was a time when coming to the rink wasn’t fun for Milan Lucic.
Lucic opened up about the struggles he faced to live up to a big contract during the Calgary Flames’ end-of-season media availability on Friday.
The hulking winger signed a seven-year, $42 million contract with the Edmonton Oilers in free agency during the summer of 2016. It didn’t take long for the contract, signed by former Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli, to look foolish for Edmonton.
Lucic had 50 points (23-27-50) during his first season in Edmonton, but his production dropped off in year two, with just 10 goals and 34 points in 2017-18. The Oilers traded him to Calgary for James Neal, after Lucic posted just 20 points (6-14-20) in 2018-19.
After four years in Calgary, Lucic’s massive contract has finally all been paid out, and he can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
“I’ve spent the last seven years here in Alberta,” Lucic told reporters. “I’ve enjoyed it. To be honest, I’m actually really happy that this contract stuff is over, because of the heaviness of it. Obviously it didn’t go as well as I’d hoped. I just need to refresh my mind as far as that stuff goes, then weigh out my options moving forward.”
Lucic said the expectations from the contract weighed on him daily.
“You want to live up to the expectations of what you’re getting paid and all that type of stuff. I’m a proud person, you know? By no means do I feel like I didn’t earn it. I definitely did earn it. But to not be able to live up to it was definitely something that weighed on me day to day. From a personal standpoint, it was hard to deal with at times. It’s like a weight lifted off my shoulder moving forward that I don’t have to think about it anymore.”
Lucic won’t earn near the $6 million per season from his last contract, but he’s fine with that.
“I definitely still want to continue playing. That’s where my head is at. I’m still healthy, still feel good, and still enjoy the game. My plan is to continue playing.”
Lucic isn’t sure if he’ll remain in Calgary, but he certainly has enjoyed life with the Flames. He became a fan favourite in Calgary, despite the overpriced contract, with those in the Saddledome yelling his name with regularity to cheer him on.
It clearly touched the 6-foot-3, 240-pound tough guy.
“The people and the fans, and living here, was much better than I thought it would be when I got traded here [from Edmonton]. I really enjoy being a Calgarian. Even when I didn’t touch the puck, just going in on the forecheck, the fans just ‘Lu’ing.’ Yelling ‘Luu’ and all that type of stuff. They made it fun for me again. I thank the people here for that and I appreciate them making it fun for me again… Coming here and playing home games, the fans made it fun every single day for me.”
"They made it fun for me again. I thank the people here for that … the fans made it fun every single day for me."
Milan Lucic reflects on the 2022-23 season and talks about the #CofRed. pic.twitter.com/7pokIsJFa4
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) April 14, 2023
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