Is Vincent Lecavalier a Fit for the Flyers?

Is Vincent Lecavalier a Fit for the Flyers?

It goes without saying that Paul Holmgren was a busy man over the weekend, but the NHL Draft wasn’t the only business that required front office attention. The Flyers’ general manager acknowledged that he also met with free-agent-to-be Vincent Lecavalier on Saturday.

The Tampa Bay Lightning used one of their two compliance buyouts on Lecavalier, which as Flyers fans are well aware makes him a free agent on July 5. The four-time All Star will be one of the most coveted players on what was shaping up to be a relatively thin class.

Just how serious are the Flyers’ overtures? It’s difficult to say. There is a perpetual sense in Philadelphia that a blockbuster acquisition is on the way, and Lecavalier would fit the bill. When pressed on where the organization stands with the long-time Tampa captain, Holmgren replied, “I have no idea.”

There are a couple of issues with pursuing Lecavalier. First and foremost, there is already a lot of competition for the 33-year-old’s services. Tim Panaccio reports no fewer than 10 clubs have shown interest, adding that he expects the bidding to be fierce. There’s really no question it will be.

That could set up like a road block for the Flyers, who even after amnestying Danny Briere and Ilya Bryzgalov are going to be tight against the salary cap. The competition will almost certainly allow for Lecavalier to leverage a deal Homer can’t easily afford, at least not without clearing more cap space first.

Second, there is some question as to whether Lecavalier is really what the Flyers need. Even with Briere out of the picture, the squad is fairly deep at center. Adding another centerman, one that is no less than a second-line player at that, figures to continue pushing Sean Couturier down the lineup, and/or forces Brayden Schenn to play out of position –which could be detrimental to both of their development.

As long as the Flyers are intent on bringing in players from outside the organization to improve the club, the focus should be on scoring wingers, an area the roster is somewhat lacking at the moment.

Lecavalier is a nice player, but would he be worth all of the rearranging that would surely follow? He hasn’t been healthy for a full season since 2009-10, which not coincidentally is also the last time he eclipsed 70 points. His most recent All-Star Game appearance was one year earlier.

It may not matter. The Flyers seem likely to get priced out of the Lecavalier market even if Holmgren can create the space in cap and on roster. That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t make for an intriguing addition, it’s just difficult to envision how such a move puts Philly over the top in the short-term, much less benefits the Orange & Black further down the road.

If somebody has an idea that satisfies all of the contractual needs under the salary cap without blocking the Flyers' young talent at center, we're all ears, because Lecavalier is the kind of player and leader any team would be lucky to have. That doesn't necessarily make him the right fit for Philly though.

Close to full health, Phillies no longer look like the worst team in baseball

usa-jerad-eickhoff-phillies-brewers.jpg
USA Today Images

Close to full health, Phillies no longer look like the worst team in baseball

Though they still have the worst record in the majors by 3½ games, the 34-62 Phillies aren't playing like the worst team in baseball right now.

Not from an offensive standpoint, not from a starting pitching standpoint, not from a bullpen standpoint.

The Phils' offense stayed hot Sunday afternoon in a 6-3 win over the Brewers, their fourth win in five games and sixth in the last 10 (see Instant Replay).

Nick Williams homered again, Howie Kendrick had a very Howie Kendrick-like at-bat with the bases loaded, Jerad Eickhoff spun a quality start and the trio of Pat Neshek, Joaquin Benoit and Luis Garcia sealed the win.

The Phillies have scored at least five runs in seven straight games, which is something none of their recent division-winning teams did in a single season. It's their longest such streak since May 31-June 7, 2005.

Their starting pitchers have allowed three runs or less in six of the last eight games.

And the Phils' bullpen has the lowest ERA in the majors since June 26 at 2.19.

A lot of things are clicking right now for a team that probably can't play worse than it did in the first half. The Phils' record remains hideous, but there are actually four teams with worse run differentials: the Reds, Blue Jays, Giants and Padres.

"My first year here as a coach was '09, and in no way am I comparing ourselves to that team, but it was reminiscent the way we've been swinging the bats of us coming back and coming from behind and catching up and beating other teams," Pete Mackanin said. "It reminds me to a certain degree."

For much of the season, Mackanin has walked into the Phillies' media room after a loss and said that his hitters aren't living up to their standard. For much of the season, the Phillies have made quick outs and life easy for the opposing pitcher. 

But with Kendrick and Cesar Hernandez back from the DL, with Odubel Herrera hitting .331 since June 1, with Maikel Franco walking as much as he's struck out the last 35 games, and with Williams' power and energy rubbing off on the rest of the team, many different Phillies are playing like they have something to prove.

"Everybody is playing for a job next year," Mackanin said. "Everybody is playing to be part of our future and I think the guys are competing among themselves. It's good to see. Everybody's more aggressive. They're into the games."

The energy added by Williams' arrival on June 30 has been impossible to ignore, though it's kind of a chicken-or-egg thing. Is there added energy because he and so many other guys started hitting, or are they hitting because there's a more positive vibe in the clubhouse and dugout?

"I like to do whatever I can to start the momentum or get guys going," Williams said. "If I do something exciting, they're like, 'Oh, he's playing hard.' But everyone's been hitting and everyone's been just playing the game right and just doing all the little things and that's how we've been able to come out with some victories.

"In close spots with the hitting, we've been able to knock a lot of guys in. It's just that hitting's contagious. I always say when one guy does it, why can't the next? That's how I think of it."

The biggest spot in Sunday's game came with the bases loaded and no outs in the fifth inning. With the game tied, the Brewers switched pitchers and Kendrick quickly found himself down 0-2 before singling up the middle to score two runs.

Kendrick has missed 60 games this season and it's been frustrating for him because he's been so locked-in when he's played. After picking up two more hits Sunday, he's up to .353 with an .873 OPS. His numbers are rarely sexy because he averages about 10 home runs per season, but a versatile, perennial .290 hitter has value. It's why the Phillies' offseason acquisition of Kendrick made sense and it's why he figures to have some trade value even though Sunday was just his 36th game of the year.

"Not only is he a good hitter but he plays solid defense out there," Mackanin said. "He doesn't have the greatest range but it's not bad. He's average to maybe a tick above average. 

"I'm sure there's a lot of interest in a lot of our guys, (Pat) Neshek, [Kendrick], even (Joaquin) Benoit, (Daniel) Nava. We'll wait and see."

The non-waiver trade deadline is just eight days away and GM Matt Klentak expects there to be some movement. The Phils' two best trade chips are Kendrick and Neshek and both had productive weekends. Neshek pitched a scoreless seventh inning to lower his ERA to 1.12. He's allowed runs in just two of 43 appearances.

And Kendrick has picked up right where he left off, going 4 for 10 since returning Friday from a hamstring strain.

"If I were scouting for another organization I'd recommend him," Mackanin said of Kendrick. "I'd put an acquire (label) on him."

We'll soon see what that acquire label nets the Phillies. The return won't be huge, but trading Kendrick will allow the Phils to add another young player with upside and open a spot back up for Aaron Altherr, who could return from the DL as early as Wednesday.

Eagles place Beau Allen, Sidney Jones on Active/NFI list in series of roster moves

usa-beau-allen-sidney-jones-eagles.jpg
USA Today Images

Eagles place Beau Allen, Sidney Jones on Active/NFI list in series of roster moves

On the eve of the official start of their 2017 training camp, the Eagles made a few roster moves Sunday.

The Eagles cut veteran cornerback Dwayne Gratz, placed defensive tackle Beau Allen (pec) and CB Sidney Jones (Achilles) on the Active/Non-football injury list, and officially signed quarterback Dane Evans out of Tulsa.

With the moves, the Eagles roster is at 89 players, one shy of the 90-man limit.

Gratz, 27, joined the Eagles late last season and has some NFL experience, but obviously didn't make a big enough impression this spring. It's likely players like C.J. Smith and Aaron Grymes were simply ahead of him.

Allen suffered a pectoral injury during the offseason and was unable to participate in spring workouts with the team. It's unclear if he'll be ready for Week 1. Allen is entering the final year of his four-year rookie contract and was reportedly in contract discussions with the Eagles before the injury.

Jones, the Eagles' second-round draft pick, fell to them in the draft because of a torn Achilles tendon he suffered at the Washington pro day. Jones has said he won't speak to reporters again until he's ready to play.

Allen and Jones can be activated off the NFI at any point during training camp if they are medically cleared. Both players count against the current roster. Before the final roster is set, the Eagles will have decisions to make about both players.