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Oilers ship Lucic to Flames in exchange for Neal

The Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames swapped contract problems on Friday, as winger Milan Lucic waived his no-movement clause to allow a trade for winger James Neal.

The Oilers included a conditional third-round pick in 2020. They also retained salary on the deal.

Lucic, 31, signed a seven-year, $42 million free-agent deal with the Oilers in July 2016 as a physical forward to play with young star Connor McDavid. But his offensive numbers dramatically fell off, with just 104 points in 243 games with a 9.8 shooting percentage. His $6 million annual cap hit through 2023, with a full no-move clause through 2021, made his contract an albatross for new general manager Ken Holland.

Neal, 31, signed a five-year, $28.75 million free-agent deal with Calgary in July 2018, with an annual cap hit of $5.75 million. His lone season with the Flames was a disaster; after scoring more than 20 goals in his first 10 NHL seasons, Neal scored just seven in 63 games with the Flames and failed to find consistency in their lineup. His contract had no trade protection.

The Oilers’ salary retention means the Flames have a $5.25 million average annual value on Lucic while the Oilers keep $750,000 on their cap.

The key for Edmonton in the trade, besides Neal’s potential offensive upside, is flexibility. Not only can he be exposed in the eventual Seattle expansion draft, but the Oilers could buy out his contract without the signing-bonus burdens that Lucic’s contract contains. Lucic is owed $8.5 million in guaranteed money beginning next summer.

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