The Flyers made a big splash in free agency when they acquired former Tampa Bay Lightning star Vincent Lecavalier after being a victim of a compliance buy out. The terms of the deal were for 5 years and $22.5M - an annual cap hit of $4.5M.
While more people than not seem to be in favor of this acquisition, there are still some echoes - and even the occasional ridicule - of such a long contract to the 33-year old center. I would like to squash this negative notion and talk about ten reasons why this is a terrific signing by GM Paul Holmgren:
1) Vinny Lecavalier is (still) really good.
Most scouts agree that he has lost a step, which tends to happen to athletes as they get into their 30's, but the numbers were still consistent and productive over a historically mediocre Tampa Bay squad. In the 2007/2008 and 2008/2009 seasons, he put up 108 and 92 points respectively.
Yes, it is true that these were years of "peak" production, but Vinny has average .83 points/game over the next five seasons (bringing us through last year, in which he still put up .82 points/game). For someone penciled in to be a second line center on a team with more offensive depth up front, these are very strong numbers.
Lifetime, he has 383 goals and 491 assists in 1037 career games. His point total of 874 is 11th among active players all-time.
Lecavalier was the captain of the Lightning. Let's also point out that Mark Streit, the Flyers other big free agent splash, was the captain of his former team. Having two former captains added to a locker room full of youthful talent can only help their production and development. You don't think guys like Sean Couturier can learn from a guy like this?
3) He won a Stanley Cup in 2004
Ahh, this is a painful fact since they slipped by the Flyers in the tough seven-game series almost 10 years ago, but Vinny has hoisted the Cup. It was teammate Brad Richards who won the Conn Smythe that year, but Lecavaliers 9 goals in 23 games certainly helped. He has won the big game, and has put up very productive stats throughout his playoff career (52 points in 63 games), certainly a big plus.
4) He addresses the Flyers' need for size up front
At 6' 4 and 208 lbs., Lecavalier is certainly a large centerman. This is something the Flyers have lacked since Jeff Carter departed via trade. He uses his size better than Jeff Carter, as well, and is very hard to knock off the puck.
5) He brings some toughness
He is not afraid to drop the gloves or step up his physical game to change a game's momentum. There were two instances just last year against Philly where Vinny took on Luke Schenn and Maxime Talbot to help energize his team at key moments in the game.
This attitude should fit in well here.
6) He is an upstanding citizen in the community
Lecavalier has won multiple awards for his tremendous charity work and commitment to local communities. He also donated $3M to Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida in 2007. This is a huge win for the Flyers' Wives Fight for Lives Carnival (arguably the most successful charity event in professional sports) for the next five years!
7) He brings a "sniper" element to the team
General offensive prowess aside, this is a player who has scored over 50 goals in a season, twice score 40 or more, five times scored over 30, and had scored 20+ in the past 12 full seasons (this excludes the lockout season and his rookie year back in 1998).
This is a proven goal scorer who still possesses a deadly wrist-shot and a rocket one-timer on the power play. The Flyers have somewhat lacked the sniping element in recent years.
8) He makes an already dangerous power play even better
Vinny is 14th among active leaders in power play goals, on a list where most of the guys ahead of him are quite a bit older. Along with the aforementioned Mark Streit, this new tandem could possibly give the Flyers the most dangerous man advantage in the game.
Just imagine a late-game 5 on 4 attack with your pick of Giroux, Lecavalier, Voracek, Timonen, Simmonds, and Hartnell? Good luck to the PK on that shift.
9) He can score the flashy goals, too
10) Oh, and he's terrific on some non-flashy skills, like faceoffs
The Flyers may finally have the personnel needed to be a strong team on the faceoffs. This is something that we are not quite used to in recent years as they have been in the bottom half of the league the last three years, including 23rd last season at 48.3%.
Giroux, one of the better faceoff men in the league (54.5% in 2012/2013), Lecavalier (54.4%), and the recent resigning of fourth-liner Adam Hall (56.2%) potentially give Philly another new area of strength.
All in all, I think this is a great signing at a very reasonable cap hit. To put this into a bit of perspective to the worriers out there, his $4.5 cap hit is less than Scott Hartnell, less than former Flyer Matt Carle by a full million, and less than the contracts recently signed by free agents Nathan Horton ($5.3M cap hit for 7 years), Mike Ribeiro ($5.5M cap hit for 5 years), David Clarkson ($5.25M cap hit for 7 years), Ryan Clowe ($4.85M cap hit for 5 years), Stephen Weiss ($4.9M cap hit for 5 years), Daniel Alfreddson ($5.5M for 1 year), and even his "replacement" in Tampa Bay in Valtteri Filpulla ($5M hit over 5 years).
I will boldly state that he is better than any of those players. Also, for those concerned about other needs and the cap issues, there are two players (Chris Pronger and Eric Wellwood) who can be placed on the LTIR right as the season begins. There is also a possibility that the same can be said for defenseman Andrej Meszaros.
Either way, let me remind everyone that it is July 7th. Holmgren will NOT be carrying ten defensemen on the roster. There is plenty of time to shed some salary while also improving the team, whether it be packaging a Mez or Coburn for an upgrade on the backline and free up some cap room to bring back Simon Gagne. This will be addressed over the next three months, I assure everyone.
I think the Flyers did just fine here.
What are your thoughts? Thanks for reading!