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