One of the more controversial trades of the past few seasons for the Edmonton Oilers was the rare Battle of Alberta exchange. Back in July of 2019, the Oilers traded Milan Lucic to the Calgary Flames for James Neal. As part of the deal, the Oilers retained $750K of Lucic’s $6M salary and also sent a conditional third-round pick as part of the deal to the Flames.
At the end of the day, it was somewhat of a win-lose trade for both teams. Neal would have an outstanding first season with the team, but after falling off a cliff in his second year with the team he was subsequently bought out and is costing the team just shy of $2M for the next two seasons.
Lucic would go on to play out his contract with the Flames, appearing in far more games with the team than Neal did but was not as productive as his contract warranted.
The real sweetener of the deal was the conditional third-round pick. The conditions were that the pick was transferred to the Flames if Neal scored 21 goals or more and Milan Lucic scored 10 or fewer goals than Neal in the 2019–20 season.
Then COVID-19 happened.
What happened to Edmonton’s pick?
In the shortened season, Neal would score 19 goals in 55 games while Lucic had eight in 68 games. At first glance, this clearly does not meet the requirements of the conditions. But the season was shortened due to the pandemic, so the conditions were reviewed by the NHL.
The ruling went against the Oilers with the Flames being awarded either the Oilers 2020 or 2021 third-round draft pick; something that to this day still doesn’t make a ton of sense. The Oilers opted for their own 2021 selection.
Sure Neal potentially could have scored two more goals in the final stretch of the season, or more than 10 goals ahead of Lucic, but to assume that seems ridiculous when it was clearly written in the trade conditions. The Oilers could have opted for a different condition or draft pick, but losing an asset over that small of a gap was somewhat silly.
Of course, it actually worked out for Oilers fans as the Flames completely wasted their pick.
What happened to Calgary’s pick(s)?
During the 2021 draft, the Oilers pick ended up being 84th overall, which is solid positioning. The Flames would take that selection and trade it with the Los Angeles Kings for the 89th and 168th picks in the same draft.
Some solid asset management by the Flames.
With those picks the Flames would draft Cameron Whynot and Jack Beck, respectively. Two solid prospects who had solid junior careers with a potential bright future on the team.
Well the Flames, of course, blew it.
Both players were required to be signed by the June 1, 2023 deadline or they would end up back in the NHL draft in 2023. The Flames opted to not sign both of them and therefore lost their rights.
The Flames blew it
The Flames turned a third-round pick into a third- and sixth-round pick. They then turned those two draft picks into absolutely nothing.
The conditional trade gods have spoken.
Photo by Marissa Baecker via NHL.com