Vincent Lecavalier is a bad idea

Lecavalier

According to pretty much every sports journalist in Philadelphia, Vincent Lecavalier is on the trade block.

Understandably, some in Edmonton have suggested him as a fit for the Oilers. He’s a reasonably big name, he’d add some size up the middle (6’4”, 215 pounds) and he’s still a very capable scorer.

It’s a bad idea.

The Cliff

640px-Train_wreck_at_Montparnasse_1895

The following select advanced statistics are courtesy of BehindtheNet.ca:

Age Season QCRank ZoneStart CorsiRel
27 2007-08 1 62.1 -1.6
28 2008-09 1 60.0 7.6
29 2009-10 5 55.4 3.9
30 2010-11 9 45.9 -0.8
31 2011-12 2 54.3 3.6
32 2012-13 6 51.9 0.9
33 2013-14 9 58.2 -9.6

There is a story in those numbers, and it’s the story of a train falling off a cliff.

Lecavalier hasn’t always been a particularly stunning two-way player over this time period, but even in his bad years he’s generally not trailed the team by a whole lot and he’s had the excuse of tough opposition (2007-08) or tough zonestarts (2010-11). Some of the years reflected in that table are legitimately excellent; others are at least decent.

Not so 2013-14.

Lecavalier was gifted by the Flyers with pretty much ideal circumstances to run up the score: a high ratio of offensive zone starts and weak opposition. The five forwards he spent more than 100 minutes with were Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, Sean Couturier, Matt Read and Claude Giroux.

Lecavalier got destroyed. All five of those linemates were better away from him than with him. He posted his worst per-shift scoring numbers of the Behind the Net era and likely since establishing himself as an NHL’er. The Flyers were brutally outshot with him on the ice.

It was a disaster.

Obstacle & Risk

Paul Holmgren's Creidt Card

When the Flyers signed Lecavalier – right after Tampa Bay spent $32.7 million to rid themselves of his cap hit – they didn’t do the typical low-risk deal that most players who end up on the wrong (or, possibly, right) side of a compliance buyout get. Instead, they dived right in, giving him a five-year contract at a $4.5 million cap hit.

Four years of that deal remain, carrying Lecavalier through to his age 37 season.

Understandably, the Flyers now want to dump that ill-advised deal. CSN Philly’s Tim Panaccio writes that he was told the Flyers were only willing to take on $1.0 million per year of the remaining deal, and that in many hypothetical trades Philadelphia wouldn’t be willing to eat a substantial portion of that deal.

He also writes that the Ottawa Senators might be willing to take Lecavalier off the Flyers hands, “but league sources say [G.M. Bryan Murray] wants the Flyers to pick up a hefty portion of the contract and he also wants something in return – most likely another player or draft pick.”

An extra wrinkle is that Lecavalier owns a no-move clause.

Any team making a trade would need to a) convince Lecavalier to waive his no-move clause, b) convince the Flyers to eat a chunk of the remaining deal and c) would still be stuck with a four year commitment to a player coming off a terrible year and moving into the age bracket where skills fall off sharply. The only redeeming feature is that the deal’s actual salary falls off the rest of the way (though the cap hit stays at $4.5 million).

A trade involving a buyout (with a substantial sweetener from Philly, as Lowetide suggested last night) isn’t much better. The CBA rules for a buyout require the team to spend two-thirds of the dollars on the remaining contract to make the player go away, and the cap hit pain is spread out over eight years. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where the Flyers would sweeten the pot enough for Edmonton to take on that kind of long-term albatross.

Could a trade for Lecavalier with no intention to use a buyout work out? Sure. But it’s a risk best assumed by a team with an internal cap that isn’t worried so much about the cap hit as they are the modest dollar figure attached to Lecavalier in the final years of his deal. It’s not a risk that makes sense for the Edmonton Oilers, who would be risking attaching a salary cap millstone just as the team starts to emerge from a long and ugly rebuild.

As for the Flyers: if they decide they really need to clear cap space, Braydon Coburn and Wayne Simmonds are pretty good players. I’m sure they’ll find some team willing to relieve them of those contracts.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • MacT's Neglected Helmet

    Yes. No thanks. Not like Lecavalier would ever want to come here anyway. He’s frigging rich, has no ties to the Oilers, and doesn’t seem like the “mentoring” type.

    I think he will elect to stay in Philly.

    PS: remember when Lecavalier was considered perhaps the best player in the world? It was a brief time – probably only a few months – but the hype was certainly there. He’s accomplished a lot and was pretty great but never did seem to hit that next level..

    • Zarny

      I remember. February 2008 people were talking about Lecavalier being the best player in the world over the last season and a half in the pre pre-Olympic hype for Vancouver.

      108 PT and 92 PT back to back and then by comparison off a cliff. Even pro-rated he dropped to 71, 70, 68, 62 and 67 PT prior to last year.

      Certainly not shabby but from where he was at it’s a headscratcher. I don’t know if he just lost motivation after getting paid, started believing his press, was lazy and didn’t train to begin with, likes to party, has been diminished by injury or just doesn’t give a s**t anymore after winning a Cup but he looked bad last year. He can still shoot like a mo fo but his legs look shot.

  • MacT's Neglected Helmet

    Mike Ribiero’s not coming here. No way. 0%.

    You might not put much weight into “character”, but the Oilers executives – whether or not you agree with them – certainly do.

  • DoubleJ

    “just as the team starts to emerge from a long and ugly rebuild.”

    easy now willis, there’s no proof of that. a bad lecavalier is an upgrade for this team. a rebound lecavalier is a god send.

    no one seems to want to give up any assets to fill the 2c hole. if you can get lecavalier without doing that, I cant see how you don’t do that due to 1 bad season

      • Zarny

        Easy now, let’s keep it real.

        In 14 NHL seasons, Lecavalier has 3 seasons you could perhaps argue were “terrible”. His rookie season and last year are 2 of them. 39 PT in 80 games in 2002-03 is the other.

        Otherwise, his Lecavalier’s production over 82 games has been 69, 62, 80, 67, 77, 108, 93, 71, 70, 68, 63 and 67.

        Even tossing out his 2 best seasons 62-80 points over 82 games is hardly “terrible”. That’s just silly.

  • Dockstaff

    And who cares if we do pick up ribero?? The guy is a awesome talent who has always been a jerk but backed it up with play. Edmonton is older and added more leadership in the last few years. Even if ribero is a cancer he won’t spread if he’s signed for a year or two as he sorts out his personal issues surrounded by professional class acts. It might be the best fit for everybody. He was just bought out for huge $$, if we could capture him cheaply for a year or two why not??

  • Dockstaff

    All the good UFA #2 centres are gone. Oilers will have to trade for a centre capable of playing second line.

    A 2C is more important than a winger. A winger can be sheltered so trade one of our many wingers for a #2 center ie Perron, Eberle or Yak.

    have to give something to get something. Other teams aren’t stupid. Oilers cannot trade two or three AHLers like Arco, Lander. Klefbom, etc and expect anything good.

  • BillHK

    Philly management may be stupid, but even they wouldn’t get rid of Simmonds and Coburn just to make cap space.

    They will most likely need to buy out Lecavelier. Then as a FA, if he’s willing to come out west, a 1 year deal might make sense to provide an NHL center with size to have flexibility with Draisaitl, Arco, Lander. Such a deal would be highly unlikely though, as MTL would offer a better one.