Flyers’ General Manager Paul Holmgren wanted to light a few fireworks before the Fourth of July. Tuesday afternoon Holmgren set off the first of many when he signed prized free-agent Vincent Lecavalier to a five-year $22.5 million contract.
The Flyers beat several teams for Lecavalier’s services, including the Dallas Stars, Montreal Canadiens and the Detroit Red Wings.
Mixed reactions cluttered social media after the deal was announced. Some were thrilled to add a forward of Lecavalier’s caliber while others were upset with the length of the contract as well the full no-movement clause. Whatever reaction you may have had, there is no denying Lecavalier gives the Flyers a whole new look.
Lecavalier – 6’4″, 223 lbs – will bring some much needed size to the center position. Sean Couturier – 6’3″ – is a defensive stud still trying to find his offensive game. Lecavalier’s point production is on the decline, but the center can still play. Last season, Lecavalier scored 32 points (10 goals, 22 assists) in 39 games. In his previous three seasons, Lecavalier has averaged nearly a point per game.
Lecavalier holds his own in the face-off circle. He ended last season with a 54.5 percent face-off percentage. During the lockout shortened season, Giroux found himself at the dot more than 1100 times. Despite this high number, Giroux managed to win the draw 54.5% of the time. After Giroux, the next highest percentages on the Flyers – with a minimum of 400 face-offs taken – were Brayden Schenn, 45.5 percent, and Sean Couturier, 43.9 percent.
Winning the draw is crucial to a team’s success. If a team wins more face-offs, they possess the puck longer. Like every other sport in the world, a high possession rate often means more wins. This in turn leads to more scoring chances. Defensive zone face-offs may be the most important. If a team wins a face-off in its own zone, it allows the defensemen to start a breakout and lead a rush up the ice into the opposing team’s zone. The addition of puck-moving defenseman Mark Streit should help defensive zone breakouts even more.
Lecavalier should add some much needed firepower to the Flyers’ second power-play unit. To be frank, the Flyers’ second unit was less than stellar. This led to increased power-play time for the first unit. The top unit averaged more than three minutes of power-play time each game. Kimmo Timonen, Jakub Voracek and Giroux logged more than three and a half minutes of time on the man-advantage.
With Lecavalier added to the mix, the second unit will likely consist of Mark Streit, Matt Read, Sean Couturier, Simon Gagne – if he comes back. A very respectable lineup. Lecavalier and Streit averaged more than three minutes of power-play time with their former teams, so they are no stranger to playing a man up.
A couple issues with this Lecavalier deal are the length of the contract and the no movement clause. The no movement clause is somewhat of an issue, but Lecavalier’s cap hit – $4.5 million – is tradeable. The only obstacle is that Lecavalier must approve the trade before it is completed. His cap hit will also not be a huge factor when it comes to future economics with the team. The N.H.L has announced multiple outdoor games next season, and the salary cap should increase a great amount. Player agent Allan Walsh believes the cap ceiling could move back to the $70 million by next summer.
Recent rumblings around the league say the Flyers and Edmonton Oilers are working on a deal involving defenseman Braydon Coburn, who’s cap hit is $4.5 million. Should the Coburn deal go down, a couple million dollars could be taken off the cap depending on who the Flyers acquire. Defenseman Andrej Meszaros could be shipped out for picks. If that deal happens, there is another $4 million off the books. Let’s also not forget Timonen’s $6 million cap hit expiring next summer.
There is much to like and dislike about this deal. The length and NMC are drawbacks, but Lecavalier makes the Flyers a more dangerous team. He remains a dangerous player in this league and has shown he can still play.