NHL Free Agent Rumors: Latest Buzz on Vincent Lecavalier's Possible Destination

Joseph ZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJune 1, 2016

Apr. 14, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA;  Tampa Bay Lightning center Vincent Lecavalier (4) against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center.  Buffalo beats Tampa Bay 3 to 1.  Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

The most high-profile name on the free-agent market is Vincent Lecavalier. Figuring out where he ends up will be an ongoing story this summer.

The Tampa Bay Lightning chose to buy out the remainder of Lecavalier's contract, which still had seven years left on it, per ESPN's Pierre LeBrun.

The 33-year-old center is coming off a season in which he scored 10 goals and added 22 assists. While he's not going to get back to his prime, Lecavalier still has a lot left in the tank. He'll find a way to compensate for losing a bit of his pace over the last few years.

Clearly, teams are not shying away from the player this offseason. It's not often that a player of Lecavalier's pedigree hits the open market like this, so when one does, there will be plenty of suitors jumping at the possibility of adding him.

Lecavalier was a key piece of the Lightning team that won the Stanley Cup in 2004. He also won the Rocket Richard Trophy in 2007, when he scored 52 goals. This is a player who's scored 20-plus goals in all but two of his 14 seasons in the league. The first was his rookie year in 1999, and the second was this past season, which was shortened by the lockout.

Whichever team lands Lecavalier is getting a proven goal scorer who can contribute in a big way. Plus, he's still probably got about four or five seasons left before he really falls off.

The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reported there are a plethora of teams have registered interest, nine in total:

Tampa centre Vinny Lecavalier can write his own ticket after being bought out by the Bolts. He made the trek to New York to meet with nine teams -- Boston, Calgary, Detroit, Montreal, Philadelphia, Toronto, St. Louis, Washington and Dallas -- and will sit down with Florida Monday before making a shortlist. Why so much interest? "Teams can't resist the chance to get a big centre and especially a free agent. You don't have to give up anybody to get him and he can still contribute," said a league executive.

The Boston Globe's Fluto Shinzawa reported Lecavalier met with the Boston Bruins, and that the team's desire to sign the player has only intensified after Nathan Horton's decision to hit the open market:

The former Tampa Bay captain was once a far-fetched pursuit for the Bruins. But earlier Saturday, Nathan Horton informed the Bruins he would hit the market when free agency opens on Friday. Horton’s impending departure jacked up the heat on the Bruins’ chase of Lecavalier.

Shinzawa went on to say that Lecavalier would have to change positions upon moving to Boston, as they had more than enough centers. While that wouldn't be a problem, if the Toronto Maple Leafs get involved, the Bruins could lose out on Lecavalier because the Leafs could offer the center a much better contract.

Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press reported that the Red Wings met with Lecavalier, but their chances of signing him aren't very good:

Players cannot sign until Friday, but free agents can talk to other teams Wednesday, and those players who’ve been subject to buyouts are already in play. The Wings met over the weekend with Vincent Lecavalier, but given the immense interest in his services, Detroit is unlikely to be his landing place.

Lecavalier probably will end up in Dallas, where new general manager Jim Nill, formerly the assistant GM in Detroit, is molding the Stars into a playoff team. Lecavalier is believed to be looking for a five-year deal, at around $5 million a season, and the Wings don’t want to commit that much term to a 34-year-old with questionable pace.

Dallas would be a great landing spot for Lecavalier. The Stars have the cap room to fit him in, and it would be a signal to the rest of the league that they're ready to be major players again. This is a team that were a playoff fixture in the late '90s and early 2000s. However, the last time the Stars made the postseason was 2008.

The Washington Capitals would also be a great fit as they look to find whatever they can to try and end their string of playoff disappointments.

You could arguably make a great case for just about any other team in the league, though.

It's going to be weird to see Lecavalier in a jersey other than that of the Lightning. He spent his entire career with the franchise since being drafted first overall in 1998.

Such is the reality of sports, though, where sentiment has to be kicked to the curb if it helps out the bottom line.