You may have heard this recently, but the Philadelphia Flyers are trying to trade Vinny Lecavalier just about a year after signing him to a five-year, $22.5 million contract.
Lecavalier is sitting on the trade block - as he has been for weeks now - while Flyers general manager Ron Hextall continues to try and find a willing trade partner for the 34-year-old center who doesn’t have a natural fit in the Flyers lineup anymore.
Deals with the Nashville Predators and Ottawa Senators have been rumored but have spun their tires in mud reportedly due to Lecavalier’s hefty salary of $4.5 million per year – a reasonable reluctance considering Lecavalier’s injury woes (face, back) and overall inconsistency last season – and the Flyers unwillingness to eat a good portion of his salary.
Those deals could always be revisited, especially the Nashville one now that center Mike Fisher is out with an Achilles rupture.
But those facts above beg this question: Where should the Flyers play Lecavalier this upcoming season if they are forced to hold on to him?
It’s a scenario that grows more and more plausible as each summer day without a trade passes.
Keep in mind that this is not the same situation that happened with defenseman Wade Redden and the New York Rangers a few years ago when the Rangers couldn’t trade Redden and stashed the defenseman and his salary in the minors. Lecavalier has a no-movement clause so he can’t be sent to the minors without his consent.
But back to Lecavalier and his potential role with the Flyers this upcoming season.
He definitely wouldn’t play on Sean Couturier’s shutdown third line that faces the opposition’s best players every night due to his defensive inefficiencies at this point in his career. Lecavalier finished a team low minus-16 least season in just 69 regular season games played and his minus-5 rating in the seven-game playoff series against the Rangers was the second-lowest rating on the team, just ahead of Braydon Coburn’s minus-6.
He wouldn’t be the second-line center because the Flyers just made in investment in Brayden Schenn to play that spot going forward and want Schenn to grow and flourish as a player in that spot. And he wouldn’t be the other wing on that line with Wayne Simmonds because that experiment didn’t work so well last season to the point that Lecavalier was demoted to the fourth line and had his ice time slashed.
Speaking of which, Lecavalier could play the fourth-line center spot but that wouldn’t be the best spot or the linemates to play with if the Flyers want to showcase him for an in-season trade. Plus, that spot could already be groomed for prized prospect Scott Laughton. Think along the lines of how Couturier was used in his rookie season of 2011-12.
That leaves one line to play on and that’s the Flyers’ top line.
Really? A player whom the team is almost desperate to trade now could play on the team’s top line? Yep, as the scoring winger Claude Giroux needs to play with.
It’s no secret that Lecavalier, a natural center, didn’t play well when he was moved to the second-line wing spot last year. But it’s also no secret that Claude Giroux needs a bonafide, high-scoring winger to play alongside. Lecavalier still has a bomb of a shot and can still put the puck in the net, as evidenced by the fact he posted 20 goals in those 69 regular season games he played last season. He can still be a threat if paired with the right players. And there’s almost no better player to be paired with than Giroux. And don’t forget a budding elite playmaker in Jake Voracek.
Teams honed in on Giroux last season because they knew Voracek is a pass-first player and Scott Hartnell wasn’t going to create a play against them. For an example, look at how they Rangers played Giroux in the playoffs when they just smothered him and dared the rest of the Flyers to beat them.
Imagine how much more dangerous Giroux could be with a legitimate offensive threat next to him to create space for him to work his magic. And for those that say Lecavalier isn’t a legitimate scoring threat anymore, a guy with his offensive skills playing with guys as dynamic as Giroux and Voracek instantly makes him a legitimate scoring threat.
And, after the way last season went and this summer’s turmoil, the Flyers would be getting a motivated Lecavalier who would be ready to prove all his doubters wrong. That would be a good thing. Plus, Giroux and Voracek are adept enough defensively that they’ll be able to cover up Lecavalier’s defensive missteps a good portion of the time.
While this is all hypothetical for now and certainly not ideal, it could work.