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.

  • Justthateasy

    Sure, this trade is at least something. I don’t think there is a downside for the Flames. As far as the no movement clause with respect to protecting for the Seattle draft, I would think that would have been discussed between management and the player as a prerequisite handshake deal. No reason why he wouldn’t waive it. It would reflect on his value if he didnt get picked but if he did get picked he would be going towards home in Vancouver. No real lost for the player with all that cash coming in. So let’s be happy and see what unfolds.

    • Ken Holland

      Neal specifically asked to be traded to Edmonton. That is the main reason Treliving made this move. Itll be coming out in Elliots 31 thoughts article and is already out in the Edmonton Journal.

      Lucic had to be called by 4-5 different former flames to be convinced of waiving hit NTC and will not waive his NMC moving forward.

      Seems like one player is excited about moving to their new team and the other is not.

      Lastly, look at the clause in the deal for the draft pick. This is the most telling fact about how the teams evaluate these players.

      Tre “If the player I trade you scores 21 goals and ends up with more than double the goals than the player you give me, can I have a 3rd?”

      Holland “yes.”

      This move is pure desperation from Tre, upper management should step in and prevent this GM from making any further moves. He is clearly on his way out and is making some very obvious desperate moves that will hurt the Lames long term.

      • Garth

        Holy crap man. Is that what all those years of losing does to an Oiler fan. It’s Sunday. Go outside and get some fresh air. Do you have a family, friends? Go and enjoy sometime with them. You are so angry and feel compelled to post 4 times to ensure we understand the Oilers won this trade….wow man settle down. Oilers got Neal, Flames got Lucic. Be a fan. Provide some intelligent input. Enjoy the BOA….get a life.

        • Ken Holland

          Which sits are those? These are actual comments from the players, GMs and coaches.

          Way more educated than the nonsense being posted by the fans on this site.

          • Trevy

            Every word you speeed is the worse bunch of crap I’ve ever read. I’ve read countless interviews regarding this trade from coaches, past players the players in question and never heard any of that. Whatever makes you sleep at night thinking the Oilers “won” this trade based on not a single game being played with their new respective teams. I could throw one fact your way too, any player traded to the Oilers suffered badly and every Oiler player traded away excelled

      • oilcanboyd

        Lucic posted a Flames jersey #17 on his twitter account the day of the trade. Raw Deal Neal hasn’t bothered. He is still: “#18 for the Calgary Flames!!!” *copied from his twitter account. Seems like Lucic is already a Flame and shows his excitement! Neal NOT so much!

      • Ken Holland

        June 3, 2018

        Flames GM Jim Treliving: “This is the type of player we’ve been looking for. We’ve liked him for a long time. He’s been successful for a long time at one of the hardest jobs in hockey, and that’s shooting it in the net… He’s a perennial 20-plus goal scorer every year. He’s an ultracompetitive guy. He’s had playoff success. He’s a big body. He’s played the last game in the league for the last two years in a row. He checks a lot of boxes for us and gives us a lot of options.”

        July 2019

        Milan Lucic is a Flame. Traded for a player signed 12 months ago. That is just hilarious.

        • oilcanboyd

          Ken, Your last statement is hilarious! If a player is traded 12 months after signing just goes to show you how god awful Neal was with the Flames – a team that garnered 107 points and finished second in the NHL.

        • Ken Holland

          “When Connor saw Steven Stamkos and [James] Neal here a couple of years ago, he said, ‘I can’t ever imagine being that strong and that fit,’” Roberts said. “I told him that if he worked hard enough, he could do it.”

          Neal has been hanging around with Connor McDavid for years at Gary Roberts off-season Ontario group sessions. “I see Connor every day, he’s the best, couldn’t ask for a better captain or guy. Every day he comes in and does his work. Being able to work out with him and skate with him is awesome. If I get a chance to play with him now that would be great, the way he dishes the puck fits my style.” said Neal, who first encountered Roberts’s regimen when he was in high school.

          • buts

            If Neal’s been working out for years with mcjesus than getting faster this summer will be a challenge. The games I went to this year I’m sure OTW on his old timers team is faster. Neal was slow, behind the play, disengaged and couldn’t do squat with the puck, which he barely had on his stick.

          • HOCKEY83

            Ya but what about the things he said to him before he became an Oiler. What the hell is he supposed to respond. He just joined the team. Of course he’s going to gush about his captain. What
            …is it the first time you’ve ever heard a player interview regarding his new team

      • HOCKEY83

        A we’ve seen all the fluff pieces Edmonton have written so far. It’s something they need to due considering the mind boggling horrible trades they’ve made over the last few seasons. Obviously they are going to spin this as floofy as they can.

    • MDG1600

      Totally disagree with justthateasy – there is clearly downside on this trade for the Flames. The downside is that if Lucic does not return to 15-20 goal form (and I hope he does)his contract will provide little or no cap relief on a buyout where Neals would have. Plus he will need to be protected for the expansion draft. There is zero reason to believe that Lucic has agreed to waive his NMC for the expansion draft.

      • Arthur-Leigh Adekunle Tig Junior Elvis

        That’s actually not totally true. I’ve actually looked at a breakdown of the two contracts if they are both bought out Summer of 2021 which is highly likely, Lucic has more of a cap hit the first two years and then Neal actually becomes more of a cap hit the final two years.

        So Calgary actually does get a fair bit of cap relief in the 2023-2024 & 2024-2025 seasons because Lucic’s contract was so front loaded, it’s not insignificant either it’s $1,406,250 savings a year over the last third and fourth years of the buyout. Honestly Lucic’s hit the last half of the buyout would only be $510,417 a season, which is essentially nothing. So it makes sense for Calgary to buy Lucic out in Summer of 2021. So all we have to see of Lucic is one full year next year, where I think he is more likely to bounce back than Neal from all of the available data and then a second year of Lucic basically just sitting in the press box most nights and then he gets bought out.

        • Arthur-Leigh Adekunle Tig Junior Elvis

          Just in case anyone was wondering if both contracts are bought out in the Summer of 2021 it looks like this.

          Calgary pays Lucic: Year 1 ($3,572,917), Year 2 ($4,885,417), Year 3 ($510,417), Year 4 ($510,417).

          Edmonton pays Neal: Year 1 ($1,916,667), Year 2 ($1,916,667), Year 3 ($1,916,667), Year 4 ($1,916,667).

          So again Calgary gets a cap relief of $1,406,250 a year for the final two seasons of the buyout. Honestly after year two of buying out Lucic he only becomes a cap hit of $510,417, so he essentially becomes off our books after year 2 of the buyout, which again is nothing. Overall the contract structures benefit Calgary more, even if we pay a little more upfront we get more flexibility on the back end, which is likely why we did this deal.

          • Kevin R

            Those are cap hits. Did you take into account the $750K of the Oilers share of that buyout & cap? What are the actual real $$$ being paid out if each player is paid out in 2021. I would think Flames ownership have to write a significantly less paycheque because Lucic has been paid a huge front loaded bonus amount by the Oilers already.

          • MDG1600

            So what are the flames supposed to do in years 1 and 2 when the Lucic cap hit is almost double? At the very least Lucic’s contract makes cap management more difficult than Neals contract.

  • Heeeeere’s Johnny

    Something has been amiss with FN log-ins the last few days so this is the first chance I have had to comment about this trade.

    On the surface it is a wash … bad contract for bad contract with financial compensation associated with the restrictive clauses of the Lucic deal and a draft pick associated with a bounce back Neal 2019-20 (we get the 3rd if Neal outscores Lucic by 10 or more goals).

    Below the surface it really does look like the Oilers won this deal as I think there is a greater probability that Neal adds on-ice value to EDM than Lucic to the Flames.

    I’m of the opinion that Treliving is a competent GM and he wouldn’t make this deal unless there was something more. I’m guessing there is some “addition by subtraction” that is really important and we may not hear of it for some time. Did Peter’s say “get that A-hole out of my room”?. Did Gio have a problem with Neal’s lack of effort? Did it become apparent that his entitled attitude seeped into the team and created a lack of commitment during the playoffs? Was he so disruptive to team chemistry that Tre would have given him away (so many trades in his history might indicate a “room problem”).

    Something doesn’t add up … maybe we needed to subtract instead to make the math work.

    • Budgie

      Trevling likely tried to move Neal with several teams and this was the only option. Neal was supposed to be a First or Second line addition, his purpose was assists and scoring while playing top minutes. In reality, he looked slow and out of position often, he was never going to rise above third line duty, and was benched. Neal is a team guy, there is nothing to the idea that he was a Negative personality.
      With Lucic the purpose is clear-Grit and Toughness-his role is clear and he isn’t supposed to be a scorer or play-maker. Lucic can be valuable for his presence on the team, that being said he can also stand in front of the opposition’s goal-tender. Lucic surprisingly doesn’t take a ton of penalties and he isn’t a Goon/Fighter. He is a solid hitter and can create some room for smaller players to pickup a puck after Lucic demolishes a puck carrier into the boards. He like Neal, are vastly over-paid but at least Lucic will have a clearly defined purpose on the bottom 6 rather than taking up a spot that ideally should have been top 6. For Neal to get back to being a point generator he needs top 6 minutes and Calgary has 8 players ahead of Neal-but 0 players for toughness ahead of Lucic. Bennett and Tkachuk tried to be the tough guys, now they can relax a bit when the games get rough.

      • Arthur-Leigh Adekunle Tig Junior Elvis

        Yeah, James Neal just didn’t fit anywhere on our roster. No way is he able to play in our Top. 9 next year especially with players like Mangiapane, Dube, etc only getting more confident and Neal isn’t nearly physical enough to play on the fourth line, at least Lucic is tough and can get spots starts coming out of the press box the next two years if he can’t find a spot in our Top. 9.

        One really interesting thing about this trade is looking at the buyout costs of their two contracts.

        Milan Lucic’s contract is more favourable in the last two years of a buyout than I thought, compared to Neal because his contract structure was more front loaded. If Lucic is bought out in the summer of 2021 after the 2023-2024 season he only has a cap hit of $510,417 for the last two seasons. Whereas James Neal carries a cap hit of $1,916,667 after the 2023-2024 for two more years.

        Therefore from 2023-2024 to 2025-2026 Milan Lucic has a cap savings of $1,406,250 compared to Neal when bought out. So we opened up a decent amount of cap room in the future with this trade, even if the first two years of the buyout hurt us a little more with Lucic, because let’s be honest both of these contracts are going to be bought out in two years time. Seattle isn’t taking either one of these players in the expansion draft. Let’s stop that discussion entirely, no one will want either of these players in two more years when they’re 34-34, Hahah

    • Budgie

      No-the “Lames’ who finished 2nd. in league with 107 points to Edmonton finishing 25th. with 79 points needed some size and hitting, there was no room in the top 6 for Neal. If Lucic gets 10-20 goals Calgary doesn’t give up a draft pick, if Lucic hits are 250, less than last year’s 259 the Calgary is satisfied in his role-low penalty minutes relative to hits and over 200 hits for the past 6 seasons. Neal has average 40 points for the past 5 seasons-except last year’s 19 points-I’ll take Lucic’s hitting over 200 times instead of Neal’s maximum of 40 points

      • Budgie

        This was better for both teams when the alternative is a buy-out-good analysis-Lucic and Neal both have to earn themselves their huge salaries. I’d rather see Lucic roaming around than Bennett or Tkachuk having to mix it up and taking penalties-we need them on the ice playing not scrapping

        • Arthur-Leigh Adekunle Tig Junior Elvis

          It’s funny if you look at the last three years Neal and Lucic have almost identical numbers each posting 104 Points over that time frame (Lucic played in slightly more games, but is more durable). So for me it’s weird that the rhetoric is “Neal can bounce back”, but Lucic can’t… Lucic is the younger player and he’s broke 50 Points more recently than Neal has and Lucic’s underlying analytical numbers were much better last year playing in way tougher situations with far less talented line mates. If anyone is bouncing back the numbers actually suggest it’s Lucic, not Neal and again at least Lucic is tough and useful in a fourth line role.

          • Budgie

            Yes, and Neal on a Fourth line would have everyone on Peters case, management and his agent, Trevling and Peter are better with Lucic as a reclamation project-I actually hope Neal gets the 21 goals so that Calgary gets the 3rd. round pick. Both teams have risks, both with expensive contracts, the third rounder might be valuable down the line

          • The Red Knight

            Everyone is forgetting to minus $750,000 per year of lucics cap hit , and should basically add $750,000 to Neal’s , read the articles on Oilersnation there hilarious. I guess Nurse is gonna have to protect the Mcdavid and the entire team now.