177Milan Lucic Mike Smith
Photo Credit: Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports

A brief history of Battle of Alberta trades

For the past 39 years, the Calgary Flames have been engaged in the Battle of Alberta with their bitter rivals, the Edmonton Oilers. The two teams have played hundreds of times. They’ve engaged in dozens of fights. But until Friday’s trade, there had been more popes since 1980 than trades between the two rivals – now that tally is even.

Since 1980, five Oilers general managers and five Flames GMs didn’t conduct any trades with their rivals. Oilers GMs not trading include Glen Sather, Kevin Lowe, Peter Chiarelli and interim GM Keith Gretzky. Flames GMs not trading include Cliff Fletcher, Doug Risebrough, Al Coates, Craig Button and interim GM Brian Burke.

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Three Oilers GMs and three Flames GMs broke the seal, though. Here are the three trades they’ve made to date.

March 3, 2010: Calgary trades Aaron Johnson and a 2011 third round pick to Edmonton for Steve Staios

Looking to add some experience and grit for a playoff push, Flames GM Darryl Sutter did the unthinkable – he made a trade with Edmonton. (Edmonton’s GM at the time was Steve Tambellini.) Staios was alright for the team, but didn’t give them much of a boost. (Johnson and the pick didn’t fare much better for the Oilers.)

Staios missed most of the following season with injuries (and was fairly flat otherwise), eventually giving rise to the FlamesNation meme “Staios! Is! Available!” He left the team as a free agent in 2011 and we all vowed to put this silliness behind us.

November 8, 2013: Calgary trades Roman Horak and Laurent Brossoit to Edmonton for Ladislav Smid and Olivier Roy

This trade made a bit more sense than the Staios swap. Looking for a veteran to help guide a rebuilding Flames squad, Jay Feaster sent tweener forward Horak and junior goalie Brossoit to Edmonton for Smid and Roy, a minor league goalie. (Edmonton’s GM at the time was Craig MacTavish.)

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Like Staios, Smid struggled with injuries and consistency and ended up riding out the final year of his contract on the long-term injured reserve list after a couple serious neck injuries. He landed in the Czech Republic as a free agent. Brossoit was easily the player who made it out of this swap looking the best, and he didn’t really get a foothold on a steady NHL gig until he became the backup in Winnipeg years later.

July 19, 2019: Calgary trades James Neal to Edmonton for Milan Lucic and a conditional 2020 third round pick

As with the prior two swaps, Brad Treliving’s trade with Edmonton was seeking to find a particular attribute or two. Staios was veteran grit. Smid was experience and leadership. Lucic is physicality, particularly with the departure of Garnet Hathaway. (The trade is functionally an acknowledgement that Ryan Lomberg might not be the heir apparent to that fourth line spot.)

The Staios trade was a declining team struggling to stay in the playoff hunt (and failing). The Smid trade was a rebuilding team trying to find a mentor for their youngsters. The Lucic trade is, at best, a team making a lateral trade with a rough contract and hoping to find a player who’s a better fit for the role that they have available. With the top six the Flames have, Neal wasn’t going to find his way back into that mix… and if he’s not scoring, you probably would rather have Milan Lucic manning the third or fourth line in limited minutes than Neal.

Time will tell if the third Battle of Alberta trade is as fruitful (or fruitless) for both sides as the previous two.

  • PlayitagainSam

    Humour … one month ago Keith Gretzky says “ How do we get Milan Lucic to fit into our top six? Holland replies “ trade him for James Neal!”😂😂
    Now Calgary has a $5.25 million player that can only do the job of a fourth liner.
    Could have had a guy like Prout do the same thing, and bought out Neal at the same time.
    Good job Treleving. Now Neal has a two or 3 real centres that can dish him the puck in McDavid , Draisaitl, and Nuge.
    Well played Ken Holland.

    • Loud_voices

      You say this is a bad trade for Calgary but Calgary was able to get rid of a poison who was good for the exact same amount of goals as Lucic was. They saved $500,000 in cap space and got a conditional 3rd round pick. Calgary can still buy out Lucic except now it will be cheaper for them to do so then it would have been to buy out Neal originally. If they choose to keep Lucic they get the #1 thing they lacked last year…. physicality. That’s a win, win, win. It’s already proven Neal was worthless to the team and it means literally nothing loosing him. All the pressure is now on Edmonton for Neal to turn around… If he doesn’t and produces at the same pace that he did in Calgary, it’s a major loss for Edmonton. Not only have they lost the draft pick, it will now cost them more to buy out Neal technically then it would have cost them to just buy out Lucic.
      If Neal doesn’t turn it around, this just stacks on top of the bad trade pile for Edmonton.

        • Loud_voices

          Because Edmonton retained $750,000 of Lucic salary making his AAV for the flames 5.25 compared to Neal’s 5.75, therefore saving more money on a buyout, not much but at a point when your pressed against the cap, every penny counts.

          • Loud_voices

            PlayitagainSam… Why is it impossible?
            As far as I know, because the flames have 1 or more arbitration filings they are still eligible to perform a buyout. Unless I’m missing something?
            And even if they waited a year they could give him a shot and if he doesn’t workout, buy him out at the end of next year during the buyout window.

          • Carignan31

            it is not impossible to buyout Lucic but he essentially has a buyout proof contract. Yes the Oilers retained salary but the actual cap hit for buying each player out is completely different.

            James Neal Buyout would cost the Oilers 1.9m x 6 years (if they bought him out next summer)

            Lucic Buyout would cost the Flames
            Year 1 – $4.8m
            Year 2 – $3.5m
            Year 3 – $4.8m
            Years4-6 – $440k

            no one in their right mind would buyout Lucic next summer and have that much dead cap space for the next 3 years…

            so it is cheaper to buy out Neal then it is to buy out Lucic.

            next time you post something maybe do a little research

  • PlayitagainSam

    Loud voices … it’s the cost of buying him out. Neal is around 1.9 per year while Lucic would be over 5 ml per year. If someone cares to give the exact number go ahead!

    • Loud_voices

      I’m not 100% sure how you came to that conclusion.
      Both players being over 26 (but under 35) on the exact same length of contract only $250,000 apart would make their buyout almost even. Again… Unless I’m missing something?

      • PlayitagainSam

        The first 3 years of the Lucic buyout would be 4.8, 3.5, 4.8 million. Hardly a pill that Calgary would want to swallow. Neal’s buyout would be 1.92/year. A lot easier for Edmonton to swallow as opposed to paying Lucic 6 million per year. Thanks again Treleving.

        • Loud_voices

          True. I forgot Lucic had a bunch of signing bonuses and thats whats affecting the buyout. I just threw the contracts into a buyout calculator. I still think this is a good idea. Mainly because I would rather a player that will try hard and defend the team over a player who will just fall between the cracks and whine like a baby. Plus Calgary gives him a chance for a few years and buys him out in 2 or 3. They get penalized for 1 or 2 years and the last 3 are less than $500,000 where as Neal is 1.92 constant. Brodie, Frolik, and Stone all come off contracts next year (if they are not traded before then) I honestly think this trade is beneficial to both teams and both players will do better next year, not to mention the expansion draft will follow next season so that could also shake things up.