I May or May Not Be Pumped About Vincent Lecavalier >

by Michael DeNicola

Wednesday, July 03, 2013 --

The term "optimism" is a subjective one, especially when you do and do not feel it simultaneously. It's quite the paradox in this circumstance, and it could lead to sleepless hours, and thoughts corroded with anxiety. That's basically how I feel about the recent free agent pickup of one Vincent Lecavalier by the Philadelphia Flyers.

My first impression wasn't what you'd call a "delightful" one --

Needless to say, I received a lot of flack from our fans on that post. Like, A LOT of flack...

I admit that I allow my first impressions to take me over like a toddler reaching for candy, but I won't apologize for it. I believe it's what makes our blog, our page, and our staff unique among the other Flyers outlets. 

With that said, I also acknowledge that I may have flown off the handle too quickly, and right now I feel a tad foolish. I ended that post with, "Hopefully I eat my words and all my bitching is plugged down my throat." That's an honest disposition, I assure you. Whenever I feel that the Flyers have made a questionable or bonehead decision, I am always hopeful that my opinion couldn't be any more incorrect. 

This posting is no different. 

But let me at least try to explore this feeling of mine further, with as much objectivity as I can muster, and with sensible, logical supposition. 

This should be fun....

To start us off, let's take a look at Lecavalier's new contract with Broad Street; per CapGeek, the 33-year old centerman is earning $22.5 million in the span of five-years. That equates to an average annual value of $4.5 million each League Year until the end of the 2017-18 season. The contract also comes with a full no-movement clause, not to be mistaken with a no-trade clause; there is a difference.

Vinny's salary terms go as follows --

Considering the success he's built, that cap hit is a steal for a player like Lecavalier. The All-Star center has spent his entire career in Tampa Bay with the Lightning; chosen 1st Overall in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, Vinny's put together a tenure that lands him 11th among active NHLers in all-time points leaders -- 10th if you discount Alexei Kovalev. [QuantHockey.com]

Right then and there, ya gotta be pumped about the acquisition. Especially considering that Lecavalier has shown no sign of slowing down at the veteran age of 33. 

In the 2012-13 shortened season, Vinny tallied 10-goals and 32-points in 39 games. He accomplished these points while spending most of his ice time with forward linemates Martin St. Louis and Benoit Pouliot; two teammates who ranked 1st and 6th in points on the Bolts that season.

Aside from this past abbreviated year, Lecavalier hasn't scored less than 22-goals since 2001-02, and nothing less than 20-goals since his rookie year. If you add all that up (keep in mind the skewed shortened season), Vinny averages just under 28-goals per year.

Alright, so, we get it.... he's an offensive machine. What will he do defensively?

Here's my concern; the Philadelphia Flyers have been atrocious at the faceoff through the better stretch of a decade. We haven't been a real possession team since probably the later '90s, and our failures at the draw have certainly contributed to that. 

Just last season, Claude Giroux was the only Flyer who took more than one-hundred faceoffs and registered a FO Win% higher than .500 (.545). All the other centers and draw-heavy forwards scored less than 50%. And if you dig back through past seasons, the numbers don't get considerably better. 

Vincent Lecavalier has a career faceoff winning-percentage of .480; nothing to brag about. But if you take a closer look, that total score is curved by some of his career's earlier seasons. 

In the past five seasons, Lecavalier's averaged a FOW% of .514. 

In 2012-13, Vinny took the second most faceoffs for his team (742), landing the highest winning-percentage than any teammate who took 200 or more draws (.544). 

Winning the faceoff and getting the puck to a distributing defenseman will be essential in 5-on-5 situations, both in our own zone and in the offensive zone. The more depth you have at the faceoff, the more you can control the game. The Boston Bruins proved that dramatically against the Penguins in their recent post-season Eastern Conference Finals series.....

....that wasn't a comparison to the Bruins or their success at the faceoff dot. I'm just putting the theory in perspective. 

Vincent's takeaway/giveaway ratio from 2012-13 isn't astronomical, but it's not in the negative either. Lecavalier had twelve takeaways to his seven giveaways, giving him a positive score of 1.71. 

His 6'4" 220-pound frame allows him to effectively throw a decent number of hits through the season, averaging around 121 hits per an 82 game clip. And speaking of hits; since the stat's inception in 2009-10, Lecavalier's pace has annually grown by 20%. Despite his age, Lecavalier has not stopped hitting opponents on the ice. He's prominently gotten more and more and more physical through the years. 

How Vincent adjusts to a head coach who demands his players to block shots remains to be seen. In his career (also since the stat's inception), Lecavalier doesn't step in front of a whole lot of pucks. 

So, after all that, how on earth do I have the nerve to feel any negativity towards this signing whatsoever?

For starters, I am not a fan of the contract's length. Vinny will be the ripe age of 38 by the time his tenure expires here in Philly. I know I've published my positive acceptance of the Mark Streit signing, but that came with enough reason that I believe I backed up well. Besides, I made it clear that Streit's contract is two-years too many. 

But that's only a minor inconvenience given that the cap ceiling is projected to rise through the CBA's lifetime, and there are more AAV's falling off the payroll in the immediate future. 

Lecavalier's contract is anchored by a no-movement clause. It's another NMC on a roster that clenches a total of six no-trade/movement clauses. Paul Holmgren enjoys handing these hampering provisions out like acid tabs at Woodstock. They've contributed to this team's inability to adjust the roster over the years unless management pulls drastic measures..... like this, or this.

My disfavor for this signing has everything to do with the long-term road ahead. For now, Lecavalier absolutely makes this team stronger. But he's another "win now" addition off of the UFA market. Last time the team exercised a move like this, it didn't turn out so well....

I guess the only difference being.... we didn't have to mortgage any players to open room for Lecavalier. 


Through this upcoming season, the Philadelphia Flyers have five commendable, pending RFA players; Claude Giroux, Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, Marc-Andre Bourdon and Steve Mason. 

Bourdon and Mason's status remains dependent on their respective circumstances with the Flyers. But players like Giroux, Brayden Schenn and Couturier are up for pay increases with their extensions -- especially Claude Giroux, who is in the middle of negotiations as we speak, and the asking price has a cap hit north of $7 million per season. Whether the Flyers match his asking price or not, you have to imagine that his contract will soak up all the space Timonen's retirement leaves behind, plus chew into $1 million or a bit more. 

I'm not worried about losing Claude Giroux, but I am worried that Paul Holmgren and the rest of the decision-making henchmen will package one of Brayden Schenn or Sean Couturier for either a mid-tier defenseman or goaltender in return, or simply to open enough space to sign one of either a blueliner or netminder from the UFA market. 

Space may be opening up over the next two, three, four League Years. But the team still needs to become cap compliant today for the 2013-14 season. 

Lecavalier came at a discount, but $4.5 million is still a hefty puzzle piece that'll need to be plugged into the payroll, potentially forcing another piece out of the equation. I guess it's the 'mighty unknown' that worries me the most. 

I was patient and ready to stand beside a team with a very young, inexperienced core, and watch them refine their game and develop chemistry among themselves. I'm confident that a root of players like Giroux, the Schenn Bros., Couturier, Voracek and Wayne Simmonds -- surrounded by the right role pieces -- can bloom into an outstanding Stanley Cup contender. It may be a little bias of me to feel so, but I get nervous and defensive if a new variable could conceivably interrupt that core's growth. Or worse, dismantle it from any level. 

Patience, development, proactive construction -- these are the prevalent philosophies that I want our ownership and management to begin instituting into the organization. Stocking the pipelines with franchise-affiliated prospects, groom them up to speed, and properly plug them into our NHL lineup. Then, once these players are at the Big Club level, patiently wait and watch them polish their games. Hopefully at that time.... we're watching, witnessing and cheering on a Lord Stanley embryo.

I know it's naive to think that signing Vincent Lecavalier stifles all of that undoubtedly. And once again, I admit my posting from our Facebook forum was a bit rash and inadvisable. 

One fan had replied to me with saying that the only knee-jerk reaction out of this, had come from me. 

Well, they're right. 

So, let me take a step back, if I may. Allow me to say that I have cautious optimism. And who knows? The additions of Streit and Lecavalier are definitely major, immediate improvements for the team. We've gotten bigger up front, and the breakout's become more surgical from the rear (giggity). The offseason's only begun, and if more chess pieces are added and moved effectively (without morphing into my aforementioned fear) then we're right back into the contending swing of things. 

Besides, it could be worse....

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