FILE - In this Feb. 2, 2013 file photo, Tampa Bay Lightning center Vincent Lecavalier moves down the ice against the New York Rangers in an NHL hockey game in Tampa, Fla. A modest crop of NHL free agents got a boost when Lecavalier, Ilya Bryzgalov and Danny Briere joined the market when their former employers decided to buy them out of their contracts. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)
Vincent Lecavalier had a tough few days after his 14-year stint in Tampa Bay ended.
His deal with Philadelphia helped soften the blow.
Lecavalier and the Flyers officially announced their $22.5 million, five-year contract on Saturday. Lecavalier, a former Lightning captain, had some options as to where he wanted to chase a second Stanley Cup. Only 33, Lecavalier has plenty left to offer a contender—or even a team like the Flyers in the midst of an off-season overhaul after missing the playoffs.
"Let's just say, Philly, with the meeting I had with them, that's the place I really wanted to go," he said Saturday. "I started off with, I don't want to say a pretty big list, but a list of about 10 teams, and right after I talked with Philly, even before any offers or anything, they went right to the top of the list. I just liked what they were saying."
The Flyers offered one nice incentive—they dangled an opportunity to share a line with team captain Claude Giroux. Giroux signed his own eight-year extension worth over $64 million this week. Lecavalier will likely settle in on the second line, but could team with Giroux to provide a potent offensive push when the Flyers really need one. Had they teamed in their prime, they would have been one of the top 1-2 punches in the league.
Lecavalier is willing to move to right wing to team up on the top line with Giroux at centre.
"It's not something that I really worry about, especially when you're being told you might play with Claude Giroux," he said. "I'm really open to that and I'd be really excited about that."
Tampa Bay cut ties with Lecavalier to clear space under a smaller salary cap. Lecavalier didn't mesh with Tampa Bay's plans, or at least his contract didn't with seven years and $45 million remaining on it. The four-time All-Star, drafted No. 1 overall by the Lightning in 1998, helped the franchise win the Stanley Cup in 2004 and scored a franchise-high 383 goals.
By buying him out, it saved Tampa Bay more than $7.7 million cap space for the upcoming season. The move cost them $32 million over 14 years because he is due two-thirds the value of his deal spread over twice the term of the contract. He scored a league-high 52 times during the 2006-07 season and had 32 points in 39 games during the shortened season.
Lecavalier, a 6-foot-4, 208-pound centre, had signed an 11-year deal with Tampa Bay in 2008. He had 10 goals and 32 points in 39 games last season for the Lightning.
"He is going to be used in a position as one of our top forwards," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "I think he brings a lot of benefits to our offensive group as well as our power play and leadership. We will sort all of this out in training camp. But to bring an elite forward like this in to the mix is a welcome addition."
Sure, Lecavalier liked the idea of becoming part of that mix.
But he didn't have final say.
"Vinny actually came into town with his wife prior to us agreeing on a contract," Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said. "I think his wife gave him the thumbs-up on the area, liked the areas we have to live where the players are at. It just kind of went from there.
The Flyers went 23-22-3 and were 10th in the Eastern Conference with 49 points. After jettisoning several goal-scoring veterans, the Flyers struggled with their offence and hope Lecavalier can bring some punch to the lineup.
In that Stanley Cup run of nine years ago, Lecavalier and the Lightning outlasted the Flyers in a memorable Eastern Conference final series. Tampa Bay then went on to win their first championship by defeating Calgary in seven games.
The Flyers also signed goalie Ray Emery to a one-year deal and 35-year-old defenceman Mark Streit to a $21-million, four-year deal that has pressed them up against the salary cap.
The Flyers firmly believe Giroux will bounce back from a bit of a down year and Scott Hartnell will return from injuries. Throw in the expected improvement from Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds and Sean Couturier, and the Flyers could make a quick return to the Eastern Conference playoffs.
"We kept what we think is a real good nucleus together," Holmgren said. "We didn't do anything to dismantle anything."
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