Lucic gets 3-year pact for $12.3m

GM Peter Chiarelli said, “The players we want to sign, we will sign.’’ Milan Lucic is now the fourth-highest paid Bruin. GM Peter Chiarelli said, “The players we want to sign, we will sign.’’ Milan Lucic is now the fourth-highest paid Bruin.
(Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff
By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / October 7, 2009

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Two weeks ago, several days after trading Phil Kessel to Toronto, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli was asked about signing Milan Lucic to a contract extension.

“You’ll see that the players we want to sign, we will sign,’’ Chiarelli said.

Yesterday, nearly nine months before Lucic was to become a restricted free agent, the Bruins gave the bruising left wing a three-year, $12.25 million extension. Lucic will earn $4 million in each of 2010-11 and 2011-12, and $4.25 million in 2012-13. Lucic, currently on his entry-level contract, is making a base salary of $685,000 this year. He will get a 484 percent raise next season.

Lucic’s $4,033,333 annual cap hit will make him the fourth-highest-paid Bruin behind Zdeno Chara ($7.5 million), Tim Thomas ($5 million), and Patrice Bergeron ($4.75 million). It is a lofty number for a player once cut by his Junior A team and not selected in the WHL bantam draft, but an appropriate price to pay for one of the league’s up-and-coming studs. Lucic’s status was reaffirmed this summer when he was invited to Team Canada’s Olympic orientation camp.

“I’m not surprised,’’ said one agent. “I thought it would be between $4 and $4.5 [million]. He brings intangibles far beyond his numbers.’’

By extending Lucic, the Bruins have answered one of their biggest questions heading into 2010-11, when the cap is expected to decrease from the current $56.8 million. Lucic was one of their four major restricted-free-agents-to-be (Blake Wheeler, Tuukka Rask, and Mark Stuart will reach restricted status July 1), while Marc Savard, Derek Morris, Andrew Ference, Mark Recchi, Steve Begin, and Shawn Thornton stand to become unrestricted free agents.

Lucic has appeared in 151 NHL games and has 25 goals and 45 assists. But he brings an all-around skill set that is unmatched.

Lucic, once criticized for his labored skating, has shown little trouble adapting to NHL speed. He broke into the league as a fourth-liner because of his bump-first game, but has carved out a spot on the No. 1 line alongside Savard by creating space for his linemates. He has shown touch and creativity around the net.

And while Lucic has yet to develop into a dangerous net-front presence, his coaches (Don Hay in junior, Brent Sutter on Team Canada in the Canada-Russia Super Series, Claude Julien now) praise him for his ability to learn and accept direction.

But the heart of Lucic’s game remains his rampaging-bull-in-a-closet style. Last year, he ensured his place in highlight immortality when he sent Toronto’s Mike Van Ryn flying amid a shower of broken Garden glass. Last Saturday, Lucic bloodied Carolina’s Jay Harrison in a second-period dustup. In the second-to-last exhibition game, after Ottawa’s Chris Neil laid out Savard, Lucic engaged the tough guy on the following draw and opened a cut near his left eye.

The Bruins still have a handful of core players to extend, but they have Glen Murray’s $1,383,333 buyout number coming off the books next season. When Recchi re-signed over the summer, the 41-year-old said he was leaning toward retiring after this year. Ference is not likely to be extended.

Lucic, the 50th pick in the 2006 draft, was the equivalent of striking gold for the Bruins. The Vancouver native was expected to return to his hometown junior club in 2007-08. But he made the big club out of camp as a 19-year-old, spending little time making a literal impact on the NHL. While earning a base salary of $585,000, Lucic collected eight goals and 19 assists with 89 penalty minutes in 77 games. Last year, Lucic had 17 goals and 25 assists while recording 136 PIMs in 72 games.

Lucic roomed with Stuart his first two seasons. This year, Lucic moved into his own apartment. Given his impending raise, Lucic doesn’t have to be splitting the rent anymore.

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