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Surely the most shocking piece of hockey news on Thursday involved Vincent Lecavalier, and the decision of the small market Tampa Bay Lightning to use a compliance buyout to get out from under his contract. The Lecavalier buyout will run the Lightning close to thirty-three million dollars over fourteen seasons according to capgeek.com, an NHL record that surely won’t be topped (a Luongo buyout would run the Aquilini Group $27 million).
Over the past three seasons Lecavalier has recorded one-hundred and thirty-five points in one-hundred and sixty-eight games, so he’s scored at a .8 points per game rate since his age thirty season. That’s pretty impressive even though some of Lecavalier’s production appears to be percentage driven of late and he’s only an even possession player at this point in his career. Also he’ll turn thirty-four by the first playoff round next season. Still, Lecavalier is an enormously productive top-six centreman who measures in at 6,4. Oh, he’s also now poised to hit the open market in free-agency this summer.
Needless to say Lecavalier will have plenty of suitors, including the Canucks to hear Pierre LeBrun tell it on the Team 1050 on Thursday. "The Canucks front office has already talked to John Tortorella about this," Lebrun passed along on Thursday, "and they see this as a possible fit if they can get out of cap hell, which they’re in now."
Read on past the jump.
There are, as I see it, a variety of potential and very significant hurdles to a possible union between Tampa Bay’s former franchise centreman and the Vancouver Canucks. The first of those hurdles, as Pierre Lebrun pointed out, is Vancouver’s complete lack of cap space. If the Canucks can rid themselves of the Luongo contract and are willing to use a compliance buyout on Keith Ballard, which y’know they totally should do, then you can begin to see how the Lecavalier math might work.
The other issue is how risky a Lecavalier deal would be for the Canucks or for any other team that signs him to a contract this summer, for that matter. Lecavalier is going to have options this summer, which will serve to dramatically inflate his value. That’s a dangerous prospect when you’re dealing with a guy who is rapidly approaching that point in his career where he’s going to begin to incur significant "diminishing returns" as an offensive player.
Lecavalier doesn’t appear to be there yet (he continues to draw penalties at a consistent, elevated rate which is something you like to see from an aging forward), but if you’re buying Lecavalier’s age thirty-three, thirty-four and thirty-five seasons in say, a three year deal, you need to understand that the value is unlikely to be there in year three of that pact.
Finally, TVA has already reported that Vincent Lecavalier would prefer to stay in the Eastern Conference:
— L.A. Lariviere (@L_A_theRiver) June 27, 2013
So if the Canucks are hoping to snare the 6,4 veteran on the open market, they’ll have to absolutely ace their pitch. Being able to call on newly hired bench boss John Tortorella, who coached Lecavalier when the Lightning won the Stanley Cup almost a decade ago, could be helpful in this regard. Of course "helpful" and "sufficient’ are two vastly different standards…
If the Canucks can sign Lecavalier this summer, it would go a long way toward addressing the club’s gaping hole at the centre position in the short-term. Based on Lebrun’s comments, team is apparently interested, but there are a lot of hurdles to clear first and there will be a lot of competition for Lecavalier’s services on the open market. And even then, should the Canucks manage to win this summer’s Lecavalier sweeps, what they’ll really win is the right to sign an aging player to an overpriced deal…