Going into the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, the Lightning were confident that Vincent Lecavalier would become the next generational of the NHL. Owner Art Williams was so sure of the organization’s first-overall selection that he dubbed him “the Michael Jordan of hockey.”
Lecavalier immediately joined Tampa Bay’s roster, joining the team for the 1998-99 season. His rookie season produced nothing magnificent. Lecavalier recorded a mere 28 points in 82 games. Now maybe those aren’t awful numbers for most rookies. However, when you are supposed to be hockey’s MJ, 28 points does not meet expectations.
On March 1, 2000, Tampa Bay chose Lecavalier as the franchise’s new captain. Achieving this honor made him the youngest captain in NHL history. Unfortunately, John Tortorella eventually stripped him of the captaincy before the 2001-02 season. Lightning management claimed that Lecavalier was not fulfilling expectations and was too young to be captain.
Though one can categorize his start in Tampa as rocky, Lecavalier eventually budded into a star of the franchise. Playing 1,037 games throughout 14 years, he scored 383 goals and added 491 assists. Additionally, Lecavalier posted 56 points in 75 playoff games and helped the team win its first and only Stanley Cup Championship.
In June of 2013, the Lightning bought out the remainder of Lecavalier’s contract, ridding them of a $7,727,272 cap hit until 2020.
Flyers Sign Vincent Lecavalier to a Five-Year Deal
On July 2, 2013, Lecavalier signed a contract with the Flyers, awarding him $22.5 million over five years. Although he was a once an elite player, Philadelphia was taking a gamble on the 33-year-old center, hoping he could produce respectable numbers for five more years.
Unfortunately, Philadelphia’s confidence in Lecavalier did not pay off. He never played over 69 games in his first two seasons and failed to record more than 37 points in a year. After only playing seven games through the beginning of January 2016, the Flyers shipped Lecavalier to the Kings with Luke Schenn. In return, the Flyers received Jordan Weal and a third-round pick.
One of the stipulations of the deal was that Lecavalier would agree to retire after the season, preventing the Kings from being stuck with his $4.5 million cap hit. He officially hung up his skates for good on June 21, 2016.
Transaction Grade: D+
In his prime, Vincent Lecavalier was one the best players the NHL had to offer. Unfortunately, that time passed before Paul Holmgren committed $22.5 million over five years to him. It would be one thing if Lecavalier’s production dropped suddenly when he joined the Flyers. However, that was not the case. It was clear that his game was on the decline, and it had been his last three seasons in Tampa Bay.
The Flyers could have come away looking less foolish if the did not give as much term on the deal. A two-year deal at $4.5 million annually would have made a lot more sense from an organizational standpoint. Unfortunately, Holmgren was all about making a splashy move and bringing in big names. Of course, this blinded him sometimes, leading to poor deals such as Lecavalier’s.
Let’s just say that this deal would never be given in the Ron Hextall era.