Sources: Flyers, Lecavalier agree to five-year deal

Sources: Flyers, Lecavalier agree to five-year deal
July 2, 2013, 6:45 pm
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After being bought out by the Lightning, Vincent Lacavalier signed a five-year, $22.5 million deal with the Flyers. (AP)

Updated 11:15 p.m.

When general managers and league personnel trickled into New York City last Thursday and Friday, the refrain was loud and clear.

The Flyers were throwing darts at 29 other NHL clubs.

“He’s got a lot of balls in the air,” one prominent GM said of his Flyers counterpart, Paul Holmgren.

Holmgren pretty much always makes a gutsy move at the NHL draft. Last weekend, he tried every which way to make a couple of deals and failed.

Tuesday, he stunned the NHL by landing Vinny Lecavalier, who was bought out by the Tampa Bay Lightning last week.

The tall centerman and former Rocket Richard award winner, who won a Stanley Cup with the Lightning in 2004, agreed to a five-year contract worth $22.5 million with the Flyers, according to league sources.

His cap hit will be $4.5 million, and he has a straight no-movement clause.

Lecavalier, 33, gives the Flyers some much-needed size -- he's 6-foot-4 -- and he’s gotten progressively better in his faceoff percentage in recent years as he's gotten older, winning draws at a 54 percent clip last season even though his ice time has dropped from a peak of 23 minutes per game in 2008 to 18 per game last season.

Since 2007-08, and not including last year’s lockout-shortened season, Lecavalier has averaged 28 goals and 66 points. Not too shabby.

But here's the bad part: His contract negatively impacts the Flyers in several ways.

The Flyers, who are overstocked with centers once again even after buying out Danny Briere, will need to clear some cap space. Prior to this deal, they had about $4.1 million of room for the coming season, according to Capgeek.com.

They are in the negative for more than $300,000 right now. Remember, Chris Pronger’s salary remains on the cap until October. That’s the earliest he can be designated LTIR (long-term injury reserve).

Lecavalier is no longer the 50-goal scorer he was in 2006-07, but he certainly has enough goals left in his stick to halve that total for a Flyers team that was starved for goals many times last season (2.7 per game).

Ten teams were seriously in the hunt for Lecavalier. By Tuesday afternoon, two of the favorites -- Dallas and Detroit -- had been eliminated, leaving many observers to believe that Lecavalier was headed to Boston.

All along, several people at different levels of the Flyers organization admitted they had no real “feeling” for how Lecavalier was leaning after meeting him last Saturday in New York, prior to the draft.

“We're getting a real quality guy,” one club source said. “We're really impressed with him. He loves our city.”

Obviously, coach Peter Laviolette now has another log jam at center.

Claude Giroux, Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, Max Talbot -- who’s been more wing than center here -- and now Lecavalier.

For two weeks, the Flyers have been listening and also shopping defenseman Braydon Coburn.

Essentially need Coburn’s cap money to afford Lecavalier. Coburn earns $4.5 million against the cap.

If not that, the Flyers could move Andrej Meszaros, who earns $4 million against the cap.

Yet, for the Flyers to lose Coburn on a suspect back end is unnerving because, if it’s Coburn, then Meszaros -- who has been an injury wreck for a year now -- needs to be fully healthy to take those minutes unless replaced.

Holmgren can pick up another $1.43 million in cap room by removing Bruno Gervais and Marc-Andre Bourdon on the blue line.

Looming even larger as a trickle-down issue off the Lecavalier deal is that the Flyers still don’t have a veteran goalie to supplement young Steve Mason in net.

Ilya Bryzgalov was bought out last week.

Right now, the Flyers need to find a veteran goalie who can be comfortable paired with Mason at a very cheap price.

Going that route -- cheap -- Johan Hedberg of the New Jersey Devils makes sense because after acquiring Cory Schneider this past weekend, Devils GM Lou Lamoriello now has to get rid of Hedberg.

The thing is, Lamoriello has never done a deal with Holmgren, likely because of the intense Philly-Jersey rivalry in the Atlantic Division.

Regardless, the Flyers now have considerably less cash to spend on a goalie and it’s a position they still need to fortify. Unless … they lose serious money on the defense, which represents $32.2 million of the club’s $64.3 million allowed cap space.

As the Stanley Cup Finals continually reminds us, goals against is usually far more significant than goals scored.

Defensively, between the blue line and goal, the Flyers still have gaps to be filled even after Lecavalier’s acquisition.