SUNRISE, Fla. – Even if it was a move that edges him to a team much closer to winning another Stanley Cup, Friday was bittersweet for Milan Lucic after getting traded to the Los Angeles Kings for Martin Jones, Colin Miller and a first-round pick.
The left winger had been in Boston since 2007, won a Stanley Cup there and established himself as a physical, intimidating power forward force. Because of that, the B’s weren’t going to be able to sign him to a new contract.
So, instead, Lucic got a phone call from new Bruins GM Don Sweeney about the trade to Los Angeles. He and Dougie Hamilton (traded to the Calgary Flames) had been shipped to Western Conference teams in a stunning makeover for the Black and Gold.
''It was definitely an emotional call. I could sense it in his voice, that it was an emotional call for [Sweeney]. For me, I was hearing and reading everything on Twitter. He was the first one to call me and give me the news about it,” said Lucic. “Obviously, my emotions were there too. At the end of the day, Boston is the place I went to as a 19-year-old, and I got to be there for eight great years and got to be part of a Stanley Cup-winning team. It’s where I grew up as a person and the player that I am today, with the help of everyone a part of the Bruins organization and the city of Boston, and especially the fans.
“I think that’s why it was such an emotional call to be a part of.
''The most exciting thing about moving on from Boston, is I get to move on to a team that already knows how to win. They’re not a team that’s learning how to win, or trying to make that step to win a Stanley Cup. They already know how to do that. The possibility of playing with two really great players, with [Anze] Kopitar and [Marian] Gaborik, it’s definitely a real exciting feeling. Obviously, I get to be part of an organization and help them win another Cup. If you look at their roster right now, I’d say we’re definitely in the top two or three in the league right now as contenders. I’m excited to join a team like this that already knows how to win. I’m just going to go there and be myself, and be the best player I can be for the team.’’
Claude Julien had been Lucic’s coach since his rookie season in 2007-08, and the winger had been a key figure in the Bruins building what had been a very good run for nearly ten years. So while he understood the reality of the salary cap and looming free agency, Julien admitted to being a little “sentimental” over seeing another one of his longtime players go.
The Bruins will also miss a powerful player that fit their modern-day Big Bad Bruins identity to a T and brought a unique blend of size, strength, sneer and skill that isn’t common in the NHL these days.
“On the sentimental side, you have an attachment to a player like that who has given you some really good service as a member of the Boston Bruins, and gave the Bruins the identity they always like to have,” said Julien. “Especially as a 19-year-old and a 20-year-old, nobody wanted to get close to the guy and he created a lot of space for himself to produce [offense]. We already kind of touched base.
“He’s sad to leave, but there’s another opportunity for him [in LA]. I’m sad to see him leave, but at the same time I understand the business and those things have to happen. It’s up to us to turn the page like we always do, and look forward seeing the guys that will come in replace some of the guys that are gone.”
In cold, hard hockey terms, the return for Lucic was a good one even if the Bruins are shouldering nearly half of Lucic’s $6 million cap hit in order to make the trade work. That’s the only way it was going down with a cap-strapped team in Los Angeles, but Kings GM Dean Lombardi was overjoyed at adding the power forward to their already potent mix of winners.
“We gave up quite a bit, and I think there are very few players out there that we would have made a deal like this for. It’s not only the player, but it’s also the fit,” said Lombardi. “I think this guy is the perfect fit with the other 12 forwards right now, and I think he could have a big impact on the team.”
The bottom line for the Bruins is this: Lucic had to be traded if the Bruins weren’t going to re-sign him, but there’s no way they can quickly replace a physical, imposing left wing who had 139 goals and 342 points in 566 regular-season games as one of the Bruins' prototypical players.