Philadelphia Flyers 2013-14 Year In Review: Vincent Lecavalier

John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

After some initial excitement at signing the former superstar, it quickly dissipated. Now the question has changed from "how will he fit in?" to "how can they get rid of him?".

Vincent Lecavalier

Age: 34 (April 21, 1980)
Contract Status: $4,500,000 per year through 2018

2013-14 Stats

GP TOI/GP Goals Assists Points
69 15:11 20 17 37
Corsi For Corsi Rel Quality of Comp. (TOI%) Zone Start % PDO
45.3% (11) -5.3% (11) 28.1% (9) 57.1% (3) 99.5% (10)

(Numbers in parentheses indicate descending rank among regular Flyers players at his position, i.e. one of the team's top eight defensemen or top 13 forwards.)

Most frequent forward lines

Linemates Goals For% Corsi For% OZ/DZ%
Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds 42.3% (+11 / -15) 44.2% 67.2%
Sean Couturier, Matt Read 60.0% (+3 / -2) 47.5% 52.4%
Michael Raffl, Claude Giroux 33.3% (+1 / -2) 44.1% 52.0%

The makings of a failed signing

When the Tampa Bay Lightning used a compliance buyout on Vincent Lecavalier, he immediately had a number of teams pursuing him. To the surprise of many, the Philadelphia Flyers were one of them. Perhaps an even bigger surprise was that he ultimately did end up signing with the Flyers.

It was a bit of a confusing signing at first glance. The Flyers weren't exactly hurting for offense, and to an even greater extent, they weren't in need of centers with Claude Giroux, Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, Adam Hall, and potentially Scott Laughton. However, the signing wasn't met with much animosity, especially considering some of the the other free-agent deals given out last summer (namely David Clarkson). Oh how wrong many of us were.

Lecavalier started off well enough with 14 points in his first 22 games, with nine of them coming on the power play. However, he never really fit in at even strength, and after missing some time with a back fracture his play really fell off once he returned.

He couldn't find his niche in the Flyer lineup. He was tried on every line at some point throughout the season, and at both center and wing. Unfortunately, he was never going to displace Giroux or Couturier at center, and Schenn appears to be a better center than winger; the Flyers seem to agree.

That meant that Lecavalier was relegated to the wing, and, well, he outright stated he can't play left wing when he said "I just completely can't play left [wing]" on an episode of Flight Plan.

Lecavalier was downright brutal for most of the year, and was a major drag on every line he played.

...the first 59 games of the season shows that every single player that has shared over 83 5-on-5 minutes with Lecavalier gets a higher percentage of shot attempts when he's not on the ice with them. Every single player.

This eventually led to Lecavalier being demoted to fourth line center where he actually played a bit better. Perhaps it was the fact that he was back to playing his natural center position. Or maybe it was because he was playing against lesser competition while on the fourth line. Likely it was a combination of the two, and it begs the question of what do the Flyers do with the 34 year old center that has four years remaining on his contract at a cap hit of $4.5 million per year.

What to do with Lecavalier moving forward

The question at this point becomes what can the Flyers do with Lecavalier. Can they move him in some fashion or are they stuck with him? I wrote about this back in April, but the three options are (as they are with any player with a no-movement clause) to keep him, to trade him, or to buy him out.

The first and most obvious choice is to keep him. The Flyers may not want to admit failure, or they may have no other choice but to keep him if they aren't capable of moving him without absorbing some form of dead cap space. If they do opt to do that, his best position with the team may just be as fourth line center as he ended the 2013-2014 season.

There's no reason that Lecavalier can't see similar, yet slightly reduced, minutes to what he has all season. He'd play a specific role as a fourth line center, power-play specialist, and a guy that can move up the lineup late in games when offense is needed.

Is it an ideal choice for a 33 year old former star with a $4.5 million cap hit? No, but it might be the best choice.

A lot of that may come down to what the Flyers do with Brayden Schenn who will be a restricted-free agent. If Schenn were to be moved it would open up the second line center position, presumably for Lecavalier.

Vinny's contract is a major burden in any trade scenario, but it may not be impossible. I'd be quite surprised if someone were willing to trade for him and absorb the entirety of his contract. However, the new CBA allows for the Flyers to retain up to 50% of his salary and cap hit. As I said back in April...

Vincent Lecavalier for four years at a $2.25 million cap hit looks a heck of a lot more desirable than Vincent Lecavalier for four years at a $4.5 million cap hit.

There's already been rumblings that with Peter Laviolette being hired in Nashville that they may consider trading for Lecavalier.

You could certainly foresee him waiving his no-movement clause to go play under Laviolette again, and Nashville's big issues has always been offense. The Flyers would certainly have to eat some salary, but it's a simple question: Eat some of the money and get something in return, or pay a fourth liner $4.5 million against the salary cap for four more seasons?

The last option for the Flyers is to buy him out. It's important to note that this would be an ordinary-course buyout, not a compliance buyout as was used on Danny Briere and Ilya Bryzgalov and resulted in 100% cap savings for the Flyers. For one, the Flyers already used their two allowed compliance buyouts, and secondly, you can't use a compliance buyout on a contract signed under the new CBA.

An ordinary-course buyout would result in dead cap space for the Flyers for the next eight years.

Were a buyout to occur this summer, Lecavalier's costs would be as follows, thanks to Capgeek.

2014-15: $1,500,000
2015-16: $3,000,000
2016-17: $3,000,000
2017-18: $2,500,000
2018-19: $1,000,000
2019-20: $1,000,000
2020-21: $1,000,000
2021-22: $1,000,000

Preseason expectations

Let's check back on our season preview for Vincent Lecavalier and see what we thought could happen with him this year.

Best case...

Vinny stays totally healthy, keeps up or even slightly improves on his production from the past few seasons, and runs one of the best second lines in hockey with Schenn and Simmonds on his wings (helping Schenn along to a breakout year in the process). He also makes the team's second power play unit another legitimate force to be reckoned with, rather than just a break from the first unit.

Worst case...

Lecavalier's health problems are even worse than usual, and in the games he plays his aging decline speeds way up and he's clearly not the same forward he was even just a year ago, and we're saying "just four more years" when we write this preview again next fall.

Verdict

It's hard to say the signing has been anything but a failure after one season. It's pretty clear we are almost spot on with Kurt's worst case scenario above. The only thing that didn't come to fruition was "worse than usual" health problems. While he did miss time, he played 69 games which is probably a realistic expectation for Lecavalier.

At this point, it's bad enough that I included it as one of Paul Holmgren's ten worst moves as General Manager. It's a little unfair because at the time it wasn't seen as a no-brainer poor signing, if anything it was a good one. However, the worst case scenario came to fruition and now we're left wondering if Ron Hextall can pull a rabbit out of a hat and follow that up by making Lecavalier disappear.

***

Feel free to vote in the poll below to grade Vincent Lecavalier's season on a scale from 1 to 10. Vote based on your expectations for him coming into the season -- i.e. 1 being "he was incredibly disappointing and I want him out now", 10 being "he was outstanding even beyond my craziest expectations".

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