Lecavalier chose Flyers before an offer was made

Lecavalier chose Flyers before an offer was made

July 6, 2013, 2:00 pm

Even before the first legit offer came in, Vinny Lecavalier says he knew where he was headed.

It wasn’t Montreal or Boston or Dallas or Detroit or any of the four other clubs vying for his services.

No, the 33-year-old centerman pretty much had his mind made up after visiting with general manager Paul Holmgren and coach Peter Laviolette in New York City the weekend of the NHL draft.

He wanted to be a Flyer.

“The meeting I had with them, that was the place I really wanted to go,” Lecavalier said Saturday during his first conference call with the Philly media.

“I started off with a pretty big list of about 10 teams. After I talked with Philly, even before any offers, they went right to the top of the list. I just liked what they were saying and looked at their lineup.”

Lecavalier signed a five-year, $22.5 million contract this week after his buyout in Tampa Bay.

“We were aggressive, we spoke to his agent right away, we were here in Voorhees and went up to New York [last] Saturday -- Peter Laviolette, Peter Luukko and myself,” Holmgren recalled.

“We had a good meeting with Vinny and with his agent and Vinny’s brother, who’s another agent in their group. And it kind of just went from there.

“We told him this is what we have, we’d love to have you, we'd like to put you in our lineup with our young centers that we already have in place and the forwards that we have in place.

“We think we're a much better team and we think you can give us a real good chance to be competitive and compete for the Stanley Cup.”

It helped that Lecavalier's wife visited the Philadelphia and liked what she saw.

“It just kind of went from there,” Holmgren said.

Lecavalier said he was impressed with how Laviolette explained his offensive approach to the game -- his attack system.

Lecavalier isn’t quite as fleet as he was five years ago, yet says playing an “up tempo” style will be better for him because it will keep him locked into the game and keep his feet moving.

“I like that better than staying on your heels,” he said. “When you are on your heels ... you are not in the game as much. Not as sharp or as quick. If you are on your toes, the way the Flyers play, it makes you a better hockey player.

“You are always on the go, aggressive in the offensive zone. Obviously, you have to play well defensively, but once you are out of that zone, you’re skating and you have to skate. It makes you skate harder. Makes you quicker for those 18-20 minutes [ice time].”

Now here’s the catch: Just like Danny Briere, Lecavalier is a natural centerman. Briere was switched to left wing much of his time last season under Laviolette and wasn’t effective.

Lecavalier said he would be “very comfortable” on right wing and admitted he was asked about that by Laviolette in their meeting. The Flyers need scoring on the right side and once again have a log jam of centers.

There’s just one more thing, however.

Lecavalier said he would love to play right wing on Claude Giroux’s line. That’s a problem because Jakub Voracek on the right side was an outstanding fit for the Flyers last season, when he scored 22 goals and was second to Giroux (48 points) in total points with 46.

You can’t ruin the obvious chemistry by moving Voracek to the left side.

“If you watch me in a game, if I have a choice of going on the left side with the puck or right side, I choose, 99 percent of time, going on the right side,” said Lecavalier, who is a left-handed shot.

“It’s not something I really worry about, especially after being told you might play with Claude Giroux. I’m open to that and would be excited for that.

“I would be very comfortable [there]. That is something they asked me at the meeting if I could play wing and I said, certainly. I’m a lot more comfortable on the right wing than on the off-wing.”

That will be Laviolette’s problem to deal with in training camp unless he makes the obvious move and puts Lecavalier between Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds.

“You look at Schenn and Simmonds, they play really hard,” Lecavalier said. “I played against them. They play hard and are great hockey players. They fit well with the Philadelphia Flyers mold.”

Rick Tocchet, Jeremy Roenick and Keith Jones all said this past week that Lecavalier will come here as a “motivated” player after having been bought out by the Lightning. He’ll have something to prove.

Lecavalier had a full week to think about what was inevitable after being told in late June by Bolts GM Steve Yzerman that a compliance buyout was likely going to happen.

“I was part of that organization for 14 years,” Lecavalier said. “It was a tough few days. ... When you hear it, it’s tough. My mom and wife took it pretty hard.”

Financially, the Bolts have 14 years to pay Lecavalier $33.2 million. That’s a helluva retirement check to get him past the feeling of being unwanted.

As for revenge or motivation, it’s not quite in Lecavalier’s character to feel anger.

“I guess I want to prove that the Flyers were right,” Lecavalier said. “It’s not about proving someone else wrong. Or the Lightning wrong.”

Oh, one more thing. About that fight last January with Luke Schenn that you lost ...

Lecavalier started laughing.

“Luke Schenn texted me and said, ‘At least we won’t get to fight, anymore,’” Lecavalier said. “That was good news for me.

“He’s a big boy, strong boy. In the heat of the moment, things happen. In the middle of that fight, I realized that maybe I should not have [fought him].”