NHL Free Agency 2013: Odds on Where Vincent Lecavalier Will Sign
Vincent Lecavalier's Hall of Fame-worthy career with the Tampa Bay Lightning came to an end last week when the team announced that it would buy out the final seven years of his contract.
The former No. 1 overall pick played an important role in the Lightning's success over the last 15 years, including the team's only Stanley Cup title in 2003-04.
The $32 million buyout is the largest in NHL history, one that will add an experienced top-six center to a 2013 free-agent class lacking elite talent.
As a center capable of playing a physical game, providing clutch scoring and excelling on the power play, Lecavalier would be a major upgrade to nearly every NHL team.
Note: All salary information via Capgeek.
4. Philadelphia Flyers
After making the decision to buy out veteran forward Daniel Briere, which will result in a loss of veteran experience, playoff scoring and power-play skill, the Philadelphia Flyers would benefit greatly from signing a player of Lecavalier's caliber.
He brings those three attributes to the ice, and his willingness to play a physical game and even the drop the gloves when necessary would make the 33-year-old center a good fit on this Flyers team.
As a former captain, Lecavalier would also bring some much-needed leadership to the Flyers. Losing former captain Chris Pronger to injury, in addition to the buyout of Briere, creates a need for additional leadership and veteran experience on this Flyers team heading into next season.
The main concern about Lecavalier from the Flyers' perspective is his injury history. Philadelphia dealt with a lot of injuries last year, which helped prevent the team from earning a postseason berth. Lecavalier hasn't played a full 82-game season since 2009-10, and he has missed 44 games over the last three years.
The Flyers could offer him a top-six and a chance to win, but the team's limited salary-cap flexibility ($4,181,478 in cap space) could be an issue.
Odds of Signing Lecavalier: 9:1
3. Montreal Canadiens
As arguably the premier French-Canadian player of his generation, Lecavalier has been linked to the Montreal Canadiens for much of his career.
This will probably be the best opportunity for the Canadiens to finally acquire Lecavalier before he retires. With the Canadiens rising to the level of playoff contenders following a last-place finish in the Eastern Conference during the 2011-12 season, this would be a perfect time for Lecavalier to return to his home province of Quebec.
Montreal needs additional center depth, especially from a player with the impressive combination of good size and elite offensive skill that Lecavalier provides. As a person with a few good years left in him and a solid understanding of the hockey culture in Quebec, Lecavalier would be a great fit with the Canadiens as a second- or third-line center.
Montreal also has $9,024,167 in cap space, and according to Dave Pagnotta of The Fourth Period, the Canadiens are one of the teams interested in signing Lecavalier.
Odds of Signing Lecavalier: 4:1
2. Boston Bruins
The Boston Bruins could offer Lecavalier a strong chance to win another Stanley Cup, an opportunity to play close to his hometown province of Quebec and an important role on the power play. Pierre LeBrun of TSN has reported that Boston has met with the free-agent forward.
Lecavalier's physical game, size and ability to possess the puck well make him a strong fit in the Bruins' style of play.
One of Boston's most glaring weaknesses over the last three years has been its terrible power play, which ranked 26th in the league last season. Lecavalier would help the Bruins power play by creating offense from the point, scoring with slap shots from the right faceoff circle and capitalizing on rebounds as a net-front presence.
With the Bruins having so much center depth, they may prefer Lecavalier to play at right wing instead of in the middle. If this were to happen, he would replace UFA right winger Nathan Horton on the team's top line alongside David Krejci and Milan Lucic.
If Lecavalier is willing to play on the wing, the Bruins may be his best option in free agency unless he can find another championship contender that could give him first-line minutes.
Odds of Signing Lecavalier: 7:3
1. Dallas Stars
The Dallas Stars have reportedly emerged as the favorite to sign Vincent Lecavalier, according to Ansar Khan of MLive.com:
The Red Wings are out of the bidding for Vincent Lecavalier, who is seeking a five-year deal for $5 million per season, which is a longer term and more money than Detroit is willing to offer. Lecavalier's agent told teams he has identified a club he wants to play for. It's believed to be Dallas.
The Stars have $13,857,223 in salary-cap space, which is more than enough room for them to re-sign their key players and add a top-six center (a position Dallas must upgrade during the offseason) of Lecavalier's caliber and cost to the roster.
He would likely be Dallas' second-line center if he signed with the Texas club, and he would significantly improve the league's 18th-ranked power play from last season. The last time that Dallas had a center with the size, skill and clutch scoring ability of Lecavalier was when franchise legend Mike Modano was still with the team.
Lecavalier would also give the Stars some much-needed size to their top-six forward group and valuable Stanley Cup-winning experience to a team with a lot of young players who have little or no playoff experience.
It should also be noted that Texas is an income tax-free state, which means that Lecavalier would make more money with the Stars than most other American NHL teams.
Odds of Signing Lecavalier: 3:2
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. He was also a credentialed writer at the 2011 and 2013 Stanley Cup Final, as well as the 2013 NHL draft.