Vincent Lecavalier Will Lead Philadelphia Flyers Back to Postseason Prominence

Mike ChiariFeatured ColumnistJuly 3, 2013

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 25: Vincent Lecavalier #4 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates against the Toronto Maple Leafs at St. Pete Times Forum on January 25, 2011 in Tampa, Florida. The Lightning defeated the Leafs 2-0. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

This past season was an extremely disappointing one for the Philadelphia Flyers, as they missed the playoffs despite having Stanley Cup aspirations. Despite the fact that free agency doesn't officially open until Friday, the Flyers have already been extremely busy and their team has transformed for the better.

The big news became official on Tuesday as the Flyers and former Tampa Bay Lightning center Vincent Lecavalier agreed in principle on a contract, according to the Flyers' Twitter account.

Lecavalier became available one week earlier when the Lightning decided to use one of their two compliance buyouts on their longtime captain, according to Pierre LeBrun of ESPN. The move was motivated strictly by financial factors as Lecavalier had seven years left on a contract that carried a $7.72 million cap hit per season.

Although Lecavalier will continue to get paid by the Lightning for the next 14 years, according to LeBrun, he didn't exactly come at a discounted price as far as the Flyers are concerned. According to Tim Panaccio of CSN Philly, Lecavalier's contract will pay him $22.5 million over five years, which equates to a $4.5 million cap hit.

While the price is a bit steep and the Flyers could come to regret the contract in three or four years, there is little doubt that it will help next season, at the very least. There seems to be a misconception that Lecavalier is ancient and past his prime since he has been in the league for so long, but he is still a productive player at 33 years of age.

The Lightning struggled as a team last season, but Lecavalier played quite well, as he put up 32 points in 39 games while playing second fiddle to the likes of Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis. In all likelihood, Lecavalier will once again play a supporting role in Philly, but he will be counted upon to help younger players like Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Brayden Schenn and others.

Lecavalier's mix of experience and skill will prove invaluable for the Flyers. Scoring wasn't really the issue for Philadelphia last season, as there were too many defensive and goaltending breakdowns from one game to the next, but Lecavalier—who captained Tampa Bay for many years and had a lot of success—should be a stabilizing force.

Although the Flyers had to amnesty Daniel Briere in order to create the cap room necessary to bring in Lecavalier, it will most definitely be an upgrade. Briere can be a dynamic player at times, but he gets injured far too often. Lecavalier is a more reliable forward and his 6'4" frame gives Philadelphia some much-needed size up front.

The Flyers already addressed the blue line by trading for the rights to former New York Islanders defenseman Mark Streit and inking him to an extension. Goaltending could still be a problem, as Steve Mason is the only established goalie currently on the roster, but plenty of winning teams have gotten by without elite goaltending in recent years. The Flyers can do the same.

Provided the Flyers tighten things up a bit on the defensive end, there is no reason why they shouldn't qualify for the playoffs. If they do, Lecavalier makes them a major threat to do some damage. While Lecavalier has only made the playoffs five times as an NHL player, he has always been a major factor.

When the Lightning won the Stanley Cup back in 2003-04, Lecavalier had 16 points in 23 games and he was the team's spiritual leader as he left it all out on the ice. He threw his body around and even threw punches, so nobody will ever question Lecavalier's desire to win.

Lecavalier was also fantastic in Tampa's 2010-11 playoff run, racking up 19 points in 18 games, as the Lightning reached the Eastern Conference Final. Lecavalier is the type of player who raises his game when the stakes are highest, and he will pay immediate dividends for the Flyers.

Time will tell if Lecavalier can remain effective throughout the life of his contract, but the Flyers are always about winning now and they'll bounce back now that Lecavalier is in the fold.


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