Lecavalier deal looks like a good one for the Flyers

Posted: July 03, 2013

LAST SUMMER, Paul Holmgren put all his eggs in one basket, going after Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, who both landed in Minnesota on dual $98 million deals.

The Flyers had no apparent Plan B.

This summer, Holmgren took a stab at the biggest free agent on the market. Apparently, his wait-and-see approach paid off.

Somehow, Vincent Lecavalier will be a Flyer for the next five seasons. Lecavalier shocked the hockey world yesterday by choosing Philadelphia over Dallas, Detroit, Montreal, Toronto, Boston, St. Louis, Washington, Anaheim, Vancouver and Calgary.

Lecavalier and the Flyers agreed to terms on a 5-year, $22.5 million pact, bringing him to his second NHL franchise after spending his first 14 seasons in Tampa Bay.

Lecavalier cannot sign with the Flyers officially until noon Friday. The Flyers confirmed the news, but said they will have no further comment until later in the week.

The future Hall of Fame center was bought out by the Lightning last week. Including the $22.5 million he's now due from the Flyers, Lecavalier will earn a total of $55.17 million over the next 14 years, with the help of his compliance buyout from Tampa Bay.

His contract features a full no-movement clause, which means he cannot be sent the minors or traded without his permission.

At first blush, adding Lecavalier seems like the usual pay-now, figure-out-how-he-fits later deal.

At 33, Lecavalier is on the downslope of his career. And the Flyers need a winger to play alongside Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek - not another center. Plus, the Flyers aren't exactly swimming in salary-cap space.

Once the shock wears off and you can sift through the aftermath that is the Flyers' salary cap, Lecavalier fits the Flyers in a big way. He's a splash. He also instantly makes the Flyers better, maybe even as the second-best player on their roster.

The Flyers found a younger, taller, more talented replacement for Danny Briere, while somehow managing to save themselves $2 million on next season's cap.

For all of the talk about Lecavalier's drop in production, he still averaged 0.82 points per game over his past four seasons. That's just off his career average of 0.84 points over 14 seasons (874 points in 1,037 games).

Lecavalier and Max Talbot will be the only signed players on the Flyers' roster with a Stanley Cup ring. The four-time All-Star helped push Tampa Bay past the Flyers in the 2004 Eastern Conference final, on the way toward the Lightning's only championship.

Briere, 35, also will become a free agent on Friday after being bought out by the Flyers. He has significant interest from the Devils, Islanders, Predators and Canadiens.

But Briere is coming off his worst statistical season as a professional (16 points in 34 games). Lecavalier posted 32 points in 39 games, while playing nearly 18 minutes a game.

The Flyers still will need to trim salary. Currently, the Flyers are approximately $320,000 over the salary cap - and they still need to add a starting goaltender.

How will they do that? At least one defenseman needs to go.

The Flyers have approximately $28 million committed to eight defensemen, and that does not include Chris Pronger's $4.91 million deal, which will come off the cap after the season starts. Chicago had only one defenseman last season (Duncan Keith) who earned more than $3.5 million. The Flyers' Kimmo Timonen ($6 million), Mark Streit ($5.25 million), Braydon Coburn ($4.5 million), Andrej Meszaros ($4 million), Luke Schenn ($3.6 million) and Nick Grossmann ($3.5 million) are all over that mark.

It's easy to understand now why Holmgren dangled Coburn to Edmonton and Calgary last week. He's the one defenseman on that list you wouldn't want to let go, but it could be tougher to find a suitor for any of those other five at those prices.

Unlike the NFL, teams aren't allowed to cut a player. And unlike before the lockout, teams aren't simply allowed to stash contracts in the minors anymore.

At the very least, we know that Holmgren still has more tricks left up his sleeve.

What can wait until September is the discussion of what to do with Brayden Schenn. With Lecavalier, one of Schenn, Talbot or Sean Couturier will need to slide to the wing.

Yes, Holmgren will need to lock up Giroux, Schenn and Couturier to long-term extensions before next summer. Those deals, too, can wait.

For the Flyers, luring Lecavalier was not only signing the biggest name to put their club back in playoff position. Adding a marquee name such as Lecavalier, after striking out on so many, is a reminder that Philadelphia is still a premier hockey market of choice. And that might prove to be invaluable.

DN Members Only : Just for fun, a video of a fight between Lecavalier and Jarome Iginla at the 2004 Stanley Cup Final.

On Twitter: @DNFlyers

Blog: ph.ly/FrequentFlyers

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