The Philadelphia Flyers haven't wasted anytime getting into the free agent market and, after already agreeing to a deal with defenceman Mark Streit, they added a top free agent centre before the wider market opens Friday.
Numbers Game looks at the Flyers' acquisition of Vincent Lecavalier.
The Flyers Get: C Vincent Lecavalier.
Lecavalier, 33, was bought out of his contract in Tampa Bay and while that was an understadable (and expensive) decision, given the potential ramifications at the end of the deal, it shouldn't completely overshadow the calibre of play that Lecavalier has provided in recent seasons.
Over the last five seasons, Lecavalier has finished with between 0.77 and 0.87 points per game in each season, with his 0.83 points per game ranking 38th among players with at least 250 games played in that span.
While Lecavalier's per-game production is strong, there is a reasonable concern that injuries are starting to catch up to him. He's missed 44 games over the last three seasons and it's not just one thing -- it was a lower body injury this year, a broken hand a couple of times, and wrist surgery and a shoulder injury before that over the last five years. While none of those injuries would appear to be chronic, there is some evidence that playing more than 1000 NHL games is starting to catch up with Lecavalier.
Lecavalier played 17:53 per game in 2013, his lowest time on ice since 2001-2002.
Nevertheless, even if the Flyers expect that Lecavalier will miss time with injuries and he scored at 0.75 points per game for a couple of seasons, 0.65 for another couple and 0.50 points per game for the last year of the deal, that would be a reasonable return. It would be bonus if Lecavalier's production was higher than that or didn't slide, but he's played with high quality offensive linemates in Tampa Bay, so he's not getting a major upgrade in that regard (unless he ends up on Claude Giroux's wing), and it's difficult to forecast anything but decline for a player entering his mid-30s.
In Philadelphia, Lecavalier should settle comfortably into the second-line centre role, perhaps with Brayden Schenn shifting to left wing and Wayne Simmonds on right wing, and get significant power play time.
Lecavalier, who received a $32.67-million buyout from Tampa Bay, signed for five years and $22.5-million (with a no-movement clause), a reasonable $4.5-million cap hit, especially so when compared to a cap hit that was $7.167-million on his previous contract with the Lightning. He was available prior to the free agent market opening because he was bought out of a contract that had a no-movement clause, giving him the option to not go on waivers before being bought out.
With Lecavalier departing, Tampa Bay will have to fill their second-line centre role behind Steven Stamkos. The leading internal andidate could be AHL MVP Tyler Johnson, a 5-foot-9, 22-year-old who had 65 points in 62 AHL games (adding 21 points in 18 playoff games) and chipped in six points in a 14-game NHL audition with the Lightning.
So ends Lecavalier's time in Tampa Bay, after 874 points in 1037 regular season games (and 52 points in 63 career playoff games) and a Stanley Cup win in 2004. He has a chance to finish out his career as a productive secondary scorer, for a team that isn't shy about spending every year in an attempt to be a contender.