September 15, 2012

Lucic: Boston's the 'only place I want to play in the NHL'

By Jesse Connolly

When Milan Lucic was asked about possibly signing a new extension prior to the current CBA expiring, the hulking winger professed that nothing was in the works. As it turns out, he had us all fooled.

Lucic and the Bruins agreed to a three-year deal that’ll kick in at the start of the 2013-14 season and carry through the 2015-16 campaign on Saturday. No. 17 will rake in $6 million annually -- a nice little raise from his current cap hit of $4.08 million.

“Obviously, I’ve spent five great years here in Boston, and I’ve really embraced this city and the Boston Bruins and they’ve embraced me,” Lucic said in his opening statement. “I’m really excited for this, and I’m happy to be remaining a Bruin. There’s no other team in the NHL I’d rather play for. Like I said, I’m real excited about this opportunity and happy this deal got done.”

A 24-year-old forward from British Columbia, Lucic was selected in the second round back in the 2006 NHL Draft. He made the jump to the NHL in 2007 as a 19-year-old rookie and quickly became a fan favorite thanks largely to his bruising style of play.

Lucic has developed into even more than a menacing winger over the last few years, cementing a spot on the top line thanks to a 30-goal campaign in 2010-11 and a follow-up season of 26 tallies this past year.

“You’re all familiar with Milan and the way he plays,” GM Peter Chiarelli said. “(He’s) a real, obviously solid contributor. I call him a kind of signature player. (He) loves to play, loves to be physical, and (is) a big part of this team.” 

A star forward and a Memorial Cup champion with the WHL’s Vancouver Giants, Lucic helped defeat his hometown Canucks in the Stanley Cup finals in 2011. Lucic is elated that Chiarelli’s kept the core group of players who won it all that year together, and that he gets to continue being a part of it.

“That obviously makes you want to stay more,” Lucic said of the B’s continuity. “He believes in all of us as players, and we believe in him in what he’s trying to build here, and a great thing that I’ve learned and what the Bruins have been preaching more than anything is it’s been about team and everyone being on the same page.

“Peter has definitely done a good job of finding guys who are willing to sacrifice and be on the same page, and I think that’s why we’re a real competitive team. Obviously, we achieved our ultimate goal in 2011 and we plan to do the same heading into the future.”

As for the immediate future, Lucic spoke about the impending lockout, which will go into effect at midnight.

“I mean obviously it’s definitely an exciting day for myself,” he said when asked if he had mixed emotions. “I’ve really enjoyed being in Boston and playing for the Bruins, and like I said in my statement, it’s definitely the one place and only place I want to play in the NHL. I’m definitely excited that I have four years left as a Boston Bruin.

“As far as the union stuff goes, obviously a lot of stuff still needs to be sorted out and hopefully things will heat up in these next couple of weeks in sorting the NHL out. But as far as my excitement goes, I’m definitely very excited, like I said, for this opportunity, and I can’t thank Peter enough and the Jacobs family enough for everything that’s gone on these last couple of days.”

Lucic made sure to thank another big group that’s played a role in his success.

"I think in Boston we have some of the best sports fans in the world, and they’ve embraced me,” he said. “Without them, I don’t think I’d be here either."

Jesse Connolly can be reached at jconnolly@hockeyjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JesseNEHJ.