NHL free agency started last week, and the Philadelphia Flyers were mostly spectators. The reason: According to CapGeek.com, the Flyers are more than $3 million over the league's $69 million cap limit right now. Therefore, the Flyers cannot afford to add a contract of any significance to help improve the team.
The best way to clear out cap space is to trade a high-salaried player who does not fit much in the team's future plans. The most logical player on that list is veteran forward Vincent Lecavalier.
Lecavalier was signed by former general manager Paul Holmgren last summer to a five-year, $22.5 million contract. Lecavalier's deal also contains a no-trade clause. His annual cap hit, according to CapGeek.com, is $4.5 million.
CBC's Elliotte Friedman indicated that it was former coach Peter Laviolette who pushed for the signing of Lecavalier last summer and that Holmgren noted Lecavalier was not a very good fit in Craig Berube's more defensive-oriented system.
The results back this up. Lecavalier scored only 20 goals and 37 points during his first season in Philadelphia. He also had a minus-16 plus/minus rating. The veteran forward was demoted to the fourth line late in the regular season and played fewer than 10 minutes in four of the Flyers' seven playoff games this spring.
Not only is Lecavalier a poor fit in Philadelphia, but the Flyers also have a glut of natural centers on their roster and in their system. In addition to Lecavalier, they have Claude Giroux, Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, R.J. Umberger, Zac Rinaldo and highly regarded prospect Scott Laughton.
It is obvious that the Flyers would not get much in return if they trade Lecavalier. Now that they have hired Laviolette, the Nashville Predators would be a logical team to send Lecavalier to, but according to Frank Seravalli of the Philadelphia Daily News, the Flyers would have to pay roughly half of Lecavalier's salary. Of course, the veteran would also have to approve the deal, but that seems like the least of the Flyers' issues.
The recent injury to Nashville forward Mike Fisher—a ruptured Achilles tendon, according to NHL.com—may give the Flyers a little more leverage and add urgency to the Predators' need to acquire a natural center.
The Lecavalier signing did not work out for the Flyers. The cost thus far is that they have been unable to dive into free agency like many of their division rivals.
New general manager Ron Hextall hopes to get out from under this cap crunch, but first he will have to undo the damage done by his predecessor. Moving Lecavalier fits the bill because he both has a substantial cap hit and does not fit into the team's system or plans. The Flyers will get next to nothing in return, but that's the price they will willingly pay to get out from under past mistakes.