What Does Vincent Lecavalier Signing Mean for the Philadelphia Flyers?

Garrett BakerSenior Analyst IJuly 3, 2013

BOSTON, MA - MAY 27:  Vincent Lecavalier #4 of the Tampa Bay Lightning reacts after their 1 to 0 loss to the Boston Bruins in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden on May 27, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

After days of negotiations, Tim Panaccio of CSN Philly announced that the Philadelpja Flyers officially signed the top unrestricted free agent on the market, center Vincent Lecavalier, who was bought out last week by the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Lecavalier's days as an NHL superstar are behind him, but he is still an effective player at 33 years old and will bring a lot to the Flyers

After barely missing a game in his mid and late 20s, Lecavalier slowed down in 2010, missing 17 and 18 games in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons, respectively. He also missed nine games this past season.

With a normal offseason ahead of him and a fresh start in Philadelphia, hopefully Lecavalier can get healthy, revamp his offensive game, and help revitalize an organization in limbo.

He brings leadership, experience and is a big body who plays aggressively and will wreak havoc on the forecheck in Peter Laviolette's system.

But the signing is not necessarily a good one.

The deal itself seems pretty reasonable. Getting a second-line center for $4.5 million is almost a bargain by today's standards.

But the Flyers now have $9.5 million wrapped up in 33-year-old Lecavalier and 35-year-old Mark Streit. They also are paying 38-year-old Kimmo Timonen $6 million this year.

Timonen will likely retire at the end of the season, but the Flyers also have a lot of re-signing to do between now and next spring. Claude Giroux will get a big raise, as will Matt Read. Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier also need to be given new deals.

Other than the monetary problems, this creates a bit of a logjam at center and could end up being yet another example of the Flyers impatience coming back to bite them.

Lecavalier will man the second-line center spot behind Claude Giroux. That means Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn, two of the best young center prospects in the league, are now pushed back on the roster.

One possible option would be to move Schenn to the wing, pushing either Scott Hartnell or Matt Read down the depth chart, and stick Couturier as the third-line center.

I do not like this for a number of reasons.

Schenn needs to continue to develop, as he could become a very good NHL center. I also think the top line of Hartnell-Giroux-Jakub Voracek should not be messed with going forward.

My preference after signing Lecavalier would be to make Schenn the third-line center, keep Scott Laughton in the CHL and/or AHL for two more seasons, and look to deal Couturier.

To me, forcing Schenn to play out on the wing stunts his growth, and I would rather keep him than Couturier.

Packaging Couturier with Braydon Coburn would entice a lot of teams. They could hopefully command a younger, top-pairing defenseman, which the Flyers desperately need.

That trade could come back to haunt the Flyers, as previous moves of young players have done, but I think it would be a waste to move Schenn to wing while keeping Couturier on the third line. 

It seems like Paul Holmgren has put himself in a bad position yet again. Guys like Sergei Bobrovsky and Luca Sbisa were given away in favor of veteran players, and both went on to develop into excellent NHL players.

Holmgren is actually a very good evaluator of young talent, but he just needs to be patient and give those young guys time to develop.

Put simply, the Flyers needed to find a good goalie and figure out a way to bolster their defense. Their strongest position, by far, was center. Their decision to invest a sizable amount of money in a 33-year-old center, therefore, seems a bit odd.

So to recap: The Flyers are now pressed against the cap ceiling, have to re-sign four very good forwards, need to improve their defense, and are still left with major questions in goal. 

Don't get me wrong, Lecavalier brings a lot of things to the team and I am excited to see him suit up in the orange and black. But in a way he creates more issues than he solves, especially down the road.

If the Flyers don't show a lot of promise this season, I think this deal could end up being Holmgren's undoing as GM.

Oh, and don't forget about the Flyers two best prospects, Scott Laughton and Nick Cousins. I bet you can guess what position they play. 


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