Philadelphia Flyers: Vinny’s New Attitude Made Trade Possible

Dec 23, 2014; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Philadelphia Flyers forward Vincent Lecavalier (40) celebrates his goal with forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (78) during the third period against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. The Flyers defeated the Wild 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 23, 2014; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Philadelphia Flyers forward Vincent Lecavalier (40) celebrates his goal with forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (78) during the third period against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. The Flyers defeated the Wild 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports /

It felt like a late Christmas present to Philadelphia Flyers fans when the team suddenly traded Vincent Lecavalier. Here’s what made it possible now, and the three benefits they reap from the trade.

Pretty much every Philadelphia Flyers fan had resigned themselves to it.  The Vincent Lecavalier signing was an irredeemable bust.  Two and half years into his stint with the Flyers, it was clear that there no hope of him helping the team on the ice.

Even worse, he was essentially unmovable because of his contract.  He was only halfway through his contract that carries a cap hit of $4.5 million per season, and no one was going to take on that commitment for an over-the-hill 35 year old player. He was almost traded to Nashville in the summer of 2014, and rumors popped up every now and again, but Flyers fans were rightfully skeptical.

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It was intriguing, therefore, when a piece on Lecavalier by Pierre LeBrun popped up this morning out of the blue.  Some of the contents of the piece was the same old story–that Lecavalier just wants one more chance.  The real key came in one simple sentence.

"My sense is Lecavalier’s agent, Kent Hughes, has made it clear to teams that if they took a chance on his client, an effort would be made to ensure those final two years on the deal wouldn’t hang over the club in one form or another."

This attitude represented a highly significant change of heart for Lecavalier.  As recently as this summer Lecavalier’s agent insisted he wasn’t ready to retire “under any circumstances.”  If an acquiring team only was on the hook for a fraction of the 2.5 years remaining on his contract, he becomes worth considering.  Still, most Flyers fans had to view this news with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Barely 5 hours later, Lecavalier was gone.  Vincent Lecavalier and Luke Schenn were shipped to the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday in return for Jordan Weal and a third round pick.  Additionally, the Kings couldn’t afford to take on all $8.1 million of Lecavalier’s and Schenn’s combined cap hit, so the Flyers will retain half the cap hit for each player.

Shortly after the deal went through, sources confirmed Lecavalier’s state of mind regarding retirement.  He will retire at the end of this season.

Lecavalier will retire at the end of this season

Lecavalier has been a good soldier for the Philadelphia Flyers.  Although he couldn’t contribute on the ice, he showed up and worked in practice every day with remarkably little complaint for a former star player buried on the roster.  Lecavalier still thinks he has something to offer, and I’m sure he was biding his time hoping a team would take a shot and snag him in a trade.  Now that’s it clear that wasn’t going to happen, Lecavalier made a simple choice: forsake the last two years of his current contract for one last chance with another team.

Lecavalier’s decision is a boon for the Flyers.  With the door open to trade him, the Flyers made a deal that also includes in Luke Schenn.  This also makes sense, as back in October I wrote that the Kings were one of 4 teams the Flyers should call to talk to about a Luke Schenn trade.

With the deal done, this particular outcome offers three tangible benefits to the Philadelphia Flyers.  First, the Flyers gain $3.417 million in cap space this season (the $4.05 million of salary they sent to LA, minus Jordan Weal’s salary of $632,500).  With this additional wiggle room, the Flyers have the flexibility to recall Sam Gagner from the AHL.  The Flyers’ struggling offense could certainly use his offensive talents, and Ron Hextall remarked just the other day that he wants Gagner up in the NHL and playing.

philadelphia flyers
Nov 10, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Colorado Avalanche goalie Reto Berra (20) makes a save against Philadelphia Flyers center Sam Gagner during the second period at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports /

The second benefit to the Flyers is that they are relieved from Lecavalier’s contract the following two seasons.  When Lecavalier retires after this season, his cap hit will completely disappear from both the Kings’ and Flyers’ books.  (Lecavalier may choose to collect a $500,000 salary bonus on July 1 and then retire on July 2, in which case each team will be on hook for $250,000 of cap hit for the 2016-17 season.)

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The third and final benefit to the Flyers from this deal is that the team acquires two assets; Jordan Weal and 3rd round pick.  Jordan Weal is a 23 year old playmaking center.  He’s undersized, but is a hard working player.  The last two seasons he has been a point-per-game player in the AHL, and last season Weal won AHL playoff MVP as his team won the AHL championship.  He hasn’t been able to break the Kings lineup this season, however, and the Kings risked losing him for nothing on waivers if they tried to send him back to the AHL this season.  Weal will get a look with the Flyers, and how he plays will dictate his future here (he is a restricted free agent after this season).

All in all, it’s a good day for everyone involved.  Vincent Lecavalier and Luke Schenn will get increased ice time opportunities on a Stanley Cup contender, while the Flyers can enjoy the three benefits listed above.  The Philadelphia Flyers will have more cap flexibility moving forward than they’ve had in a long time, and Hextall can shift his focus to dealing with the Andrew MacDonald and RJ Umberger deadweight contracts next.  It’s a bit early to get into detailed speculation about what moves next season could bring for the Flyers, but the window of opportunities just got a whole lot bigger today.