Ron Hextall is not giving away Vincent Lecavalier. If he was, Vinny would be gone already. No matter the various trade scenarios continuously popping-up on message boards, Vincent Lecavalier will be a Flyer on Opening Day. "...cats and dogs living together; it's MASS HYSTERIA!"
It is pretty clear nobody wants Vincent Lecavalier, at least not at his current cap hit and term. Speculation as to where he will go has singled out Nashville as his eventual summer destination. As yet no deal has been struck, despite Nashville needing a center, having wünder-recruiter Peter Laviolette as their coach, and maintaining reasonable cap space. The set-up is so sweet, and with the timing of an unfortunate Mike Fisher injury, juuuuuuust right, and still the punchline was never delivered.
So now we Flyer fans are left with a sour taste, amazed at how far Stanley Cup-winner Vinny Lecavalier has fallen in one season. A season in which he bounced from wing to center and back again and back again, shuttled from line to line, injured his back, was finally "demoted" to the 4th line, and still scored 20 goals. ONE season following an off-season in which he was (heavily) recruited by 10 or so clubs. One mother-puss-bucket season.
Sure he struggled on the wing, but he'd been a center his entire career to that point, and he got injured. He's had an entire summer to get himself in top physical condition. If his motivation as a professional athlete was lagging at this point in his career, I'm pretty sure getting bought out last off-season, getting demoted to the 4th line in-season, and then sitting through this current off-season in which no team in the league wanted him, will be enough to rejuvenate his commitment. We can only wait until season start to see if top shape Vinny = faster Vinny.
In any case, we should all be fans of how GM Hextall is handling this situation. It truly is an astounding demonstration of restraint while maintaining a poker face. Here's how the situation has unfolded so far:
Tells the coach, we'll see what we can do to move him.
Tells the agent, go ahead and find a trade partner.
Tells the media, the Flyers plan to have Vincent Lecavalier on their roster opening day.
Tells the player, you are a professional and we expect you to act like it.
Tells the team, everyone has to play their way onto the roster.
Refuses to retain 50% of the salary and the cap hit of a player who will not be playing for his club.
That is some genius GM-ing for a guy whose hands seem to be tied.
What else can the man do? The coach doesn't think the player fits his system. The player doesn't think he's a 4th line center, nor a 2nd line winger. The media (not just the infidelphia media, either) believe the player is too old, slow, injury-prone, fading too quickly. The rest of the league estimates that he's worth half of what he's getting paid, and would MAYBE take him if the Flyers eat 50% of salary and cap hit. They all might be right, but somebody is needed on that top-line left wing!
Is there no one on the roster that can provide the size and the scoring touch they need on that top-line LW? The team has already experimented with Vinny Lecav in that spot, and found it lacking. The player himself has already stated that he's uncomfortable on the left wing. Maybe don't put him on the left wing. This post isn't about what to do with the top-line LW, so much as a what to do with Vincent Lecavalier, Philadelphia Flyer.
I recently started to read an interesting proposal to put Sean Couturier on that top left wing (and if it wasn't for my crying children, I could've finished it! I would love to quote the aforementioned article, but now I cannot find it ~once I do I'll edit this post w/ a link). That could work. To Flyer fans, he's a defensive juggernaut. Coming out of his draft, however, he was really an offensive talent. Having a guy who can hold his own defensively while driving play towards the other team's net, who can also win you face-offs in case G gets tossed out, might not be a bad thing. It's an experiment worth trying, if for no other reason than the team has already experimented with Lecavalier and B.Schenn in that spot and found it inadequate.
This move would also free up Vinny to play 2nd line center, with power-forward extraordinaire Wayne Simmonds. Since Couturier would no longer be his ice-partner, Matt Read could move to 2nd line LW.
Read's defensive prowess and speed could aid the slower Lecavalier, while concurrently bolstering his offensive zone starts, which should lead to more goals.
The 3rd line would be centered by B.Schenn, providing him with the opportunity to begin to play hockey like the player he claims to have modeled his game after: Mike Richards (swoon). With Umberger on one wing, and Jason Akeson on another, that line will be gifted with speed, size, creativity and defensive reliability. It would also show the team B.Schenn's true colors: if he gripes about getting "demoted" to the 3rd line, or if it becomes clear that he cannot handle his new, more defensive role they can trade him while his stock is still high. If he succeeds in his role, without objection to it, all the better for the team.
The 4th line would consist of Raffl, Rinaldo, and Jay Rosehill. THAT Jay Rosehill? Sure. Why not? The only one of those guys who should see more than 5mins of playing time is Raffl, who would be staking his claim as a top-6 guy if he could start burying his chances instead of putting them over the net. He can easily move up and down the line-up in any forward position to provide rest for anyone, and he can kill penalties. Not the greatest 4th line in hockey, but that's why it's the 4th line. If they're playing more than 10mins a game, the team is either CRUSHING their opponents, or getting manhandled (PHRASING!) themselves.
Worst comes to worst: Vinny goes back to that 4th line and remains on the 2nd pp unit, while potentially putting in another 20 goals for the club. It's not ideal, but it's reality. And the team is stuck with him. And Hextall won't budge. Is it September 22nd yet?