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NHL Free Agency: Philadelphia Flyers Win Vinny Lecavalier Sweepstakes

Vincent Lecavalier
Vincent Lecavalier

March 7, 2013; Tampa FL, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning center Vincent Lecavalier (4) shoots against the Winnipeg Jets during the second period at Tampa Times Forum. Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, the Philadelphia Flyers have acquired free agent Vincent Lecavalier. The long-time Tampa Bay captain was bought out by the Lightning last week, leading to a mad scramble for his signature.

After meeting with a multitude of teams at the draft, it appears that Lecavalier has chosen to head to Philadelphia, who will try to fit him under the descending salary cap with space opened up by their compliance buyouts of goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov and forward Danny Briere.

The Lightning were forced to buyout the man that led them to the 2004 Stanley Cup in order to escape his 11-year $85 million contract. The deal was set to keep Lecavalier in Tampa until 2020, and GM Steve Yzerman‘s move will free up more than $7 million in cap space for the Lightning over each of the next seven seasons.

Widely regarded as the most coveted free agent on the market, Lecavalier mulled offers from a number of teams including Dallas, Boston, Toronto and even his home town Montreal Canadiens. Boston and Montreal seemed like ideal landing spots if the centerman wanted to prioritize winning, and either the Maple Leafs or the Stars likely offered the most money.

However, Lecavalier seems to have taken a middle path to Philadelphia, with CSN’s Tim Panaccio reporting that the Flyers will pay him $23.5 million over five years. Regardless of how the deal breaks down, the 33-year old center will be taking a sharp paycut from the $10 million dollars he earned this past season.

According to Cap Geek, the Flyers have roughly $4 million of cap space to spend, and Lecavalier’s deal will likely take up most of that. Even after letting go of Ilya Bryzgalov and Danny Briere, the Flyers will likely need to free up some more space, especially if they intend to offer franchise player Claude Giroux an extension. Giroux will be a restricted free agent next summer, meaning Flyers GM Paul Holmgren will have to do some creative mathematics in the immediate future.

Lecavalier is the second free agent addition to the Flyers’ roster this summer. Philadelphia acquired former-Islanders defenseman Mark Streit‘s negotiating rights earlier in the offseason and subsequently signed him to a four-year deal.

Their newest acquisition is hardly the same player that won the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy in 2007 with 52 goals, but Lecavalier is still a highly effective two-way center. He scored ten goals and assisted on 22 more to post a healthy total of 32 points in 39 games this past season.

In addition to his offensive prowess, Lecavalier brings superb intangibles to Philadelphia. The four-time all-star leads by example on and off the ice, and the Flyers hope he can spearhead a major turn-around for the club.

After missing the playoffs for the first time since 2007, the Flyers have been aggressive in their attempts to get back to the top of the Eastern Conference. Time will tell if bold moves like this one will get the job done.

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