EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Milan Lucic doesn’t feel the need to test the unrestricted free agent market this summer. He knows he wants to stay with the Los Angeles Kings and believes he and the team aren’t that far apart in regards to a new contract.
“I think (we’re) in the same area code I would say,” Lucic said. “Just a little bit more work to do to bridge the gap here and like I said, it’s something that I definitely want moving forward, which I think is definitely important and I think it’s something they want too so hopefully we can make it work out here.”
The 27-year-old Lucic is reaching the end of a three-year $18 million contract and is slated to hit the unrestricted free agent market if he and the Kings don’t come to an agreement before July 1. Lucic has no plans to get to that date.
There have been some rumors about Lucic dreaming to return to his native Vancouver, but he seemed like he was dead set on staying in Los Angeles with his next deal.
“The sooner the better. To be honest I really don’t have much interest into hitting the open market or hearing what’s out there because in my mind this is where I want to be,” Lucic said. “Why flirt with something when you know what you want. That’s the case for me moving forward.”
Lucic had a nice bounce-back year with Los Angeles after a tough final season with the Boston Bruins. He scored 20 goals and added 35 assists for 55 points. He was also a plus-26. The year before, Lucic had 44 points in 81 games. His hulking presence on the wing helped aid the Kings’ physical, grinding puck possession game. Los Angeles acquired Lucic at the NHL Draft last summer.
The San Jose Sharks beat the Kings in five games in the first-round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, preventing Lucic from going on a deep run with the group as he hoped.
“Obviously it didn’t finish the way we were hoping but when you look at the season as a whole and for myself I really enjoyed it,” Lucic said.
Along with the on-ice fit, Lucic family has enjoyed various activities and distractions in Southern California. He said he’s going to stick around Los Angeles for most of the offseason and joked that he’ll at least have a decent chunk of time to go to Disneyland with his children.
“As important as it is in my decision and where I want to be and being happy and all that type of stuff, I think them being happy and being in a place where it’s a great spot for them to grow up and go to school and stuff like that is really, really important as well,” Lucic said. “Obviously down here has so much to offer as far as all that goes. One of the best places to raise your children is here in the South Bay area, and that definitely plays into a big part of why I want to remain here as well.”
Keeping Lucic may be less about his desire to stay in LA and more about the Kings’ ability to fit him into their salary plans. According to General Fanager the Kings have $66.4 million of salary cap hit locked into their team next season. Pending unrestricted free agents that could be re-signed include Trevor Lewis ($1.525 million), Lucic, and Luke Schenn ($1.8 million).
Brayden McNabb ($650,000) is the only notable pending RFA who will likely get a raise. Vincent Lecavalier’s $2.25 million salary cap hit will likely fall off the Kings’ total if he retires as he’s said he will.
“It’s a team with a lot more to give and hopefully being bounced out this early in the playoffs gives us the right type of motivation heading into the summer and our training and into next season,” Lucic said. “You look right now, there’s a lot of time until then there’s a lot of time to get yourself healthy and in the best shape you possibly can. There’s lots to be motivated about heading into next season.”
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