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Could Vincent Lecavalier retire before the end of his contract?

The Vincent Lecavalier experiment has obviously not gone according to plan for anyone involved, but has it gotten so bad for the once-elite veteran center that he'd willingly pass up millions to stop playing for the Flyers before his contract ends in 2018?

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Whether you were awake to watch it or not, you likely saw at some point on Tuesday that Craig Berube decided to healthy-scratch Flyers forward Vincent Lecavalier for the first time in Lecavalier's illustrious 16-year career. While it's sad to see it come down to this for a good guy like Lecavalier, it's very hard to argue with the move on its merits. Lecavalier had just three points in the entire month of November after coming back from a foot injury, and his shortcomings defensively and possession-wise are well-documented at this point.

It's a sad predicament for everyone involved, and no one really seems happy about it. Possibly least of all, Lecavalier, who clearly is not in the situation he thought he would be in when he signed here in July of 2013 and has struggled basically since he got here.

Lecavalier clearly doesn't want to be here any more, and the team -- which more or less admitted that it tried to trade him last summer, as Lecavalier requested -- would probably love to find a way out of as much of its remaining commitment to Vinny as possible. He sits on the cap for this season as well as three more after it with an annual value of $4.5 million per season.

So that prompts this question: is Lecavalier upset enough here that he'd walk away from some of the money left on his contract in order to get out of Philadelphia?

As reported by TSN's Darren Dreger on TSN's Insider Trading (and as transcribed below by The Score, as you can only view that video in Canada -- emphasis ours):

"Some believe that Vincent Lecavalier - he obviously wants out of Philadelphia - but maybe he entices a team with an acknowledgement that he doesn't intend on playing out the remainder of his contract," TSN's Darren Dreger said Tuesday during an Insider Trading segment.

"There are some close to Lecavalier that believe that he may retire after next season. So he wants to play out this year - he's getting $6 million. Wants to play another year at $4.5, but maybe he'll leave as much as $6 million - the remainder of that deal - on the table, but he definitely wants out."

Lecavalier's contract in its entirety is essentially impossible to trade, and the Flyers were reportedly loath to retain much of it in a deal over the summer. As Elliotte Friedman mentioned in his 30 Thoughts piece from Tuesday, the Flyers could possibly deal Lecavalier by attaching something or someone more appealing to the deal (i.e. a draft pick or a prospect), but dealing an asset with value to get rid of a guy you don't want is also obviously not preferable.

But if all of those efforts fail, it appears Lecavalier may be willing to take matters into his own hands. If Dreger's report is to be believed, then Vinny -- who will turn 35 in April -- could potentially walk away from the game after the 2015-16 season. It seems like there are two ways that this could happen:

  1. He's still on the Flyers at the end of the 2015-16 season, by which time he clearly has had enough of this and hangs them up.
  2. He convinces another team -- one that is reluctant to take on the entire remaining four-year brunt of his contract -- that he will retire at the end of the 2015-16 season to clear his hit off the books, making a sort of handshake agreement.

There would be no salary cap penalties if Lecavalier retires before his contract ends, since it is not a 35-plus deal nor is it eligible for recapture penalties. His $4.5 million hit would come off the books immediately. In terms of actual dollars, Lecavalier makes $6 million this season and $4.5 million next, before seeing that number drop to $3 million for each of the final two seasons. Were he to retire after 2015-16, he'd be passing up on $6 million in real dollars.

That isn't exactly pocket change to anyone, even wealthy professional athletes, and the decision to potentially walk away from it would surely not be a decision made lightly. But Lecavalier's been very well-compensated over the course of his career, and if he's truly that upset here, he may well decide it's worth it to pass up that money. While it's certainly not the norm for a pro athlete to walk away from guaranteed money like that, it's his decision to make.

In any case, it looks like one way or another, this sad chapter may be coming to an end within the next 18 months or so -- which, while still quite a bit of time, isn't as long as we'd maybe thought it would be.