Lecavalier's Decision Easy In Coming to Philly
The man who once wore a #4 on his sweater will have to add a zero, as the retired Barry Ashbee holds permanent claim to that number.
Though Vincent Lecavalier will have to add a zero to his jersey, leading him to don a #40 jersey with the Flyers, Philadelphia did not get a zero as they landed the top free agent of the offseason. After inking a five-year, $22.5 million contract to play for the Flyers, the 33-year-old Lecavalier will bring the perfect combination of scoring and a veteran presence to a young Flyers team seeking a direction.
“I’m really excited," Lecavalier said. "Obviously everything came pretty quickly. I was part of an organization for 14 years so it was a tough few days. But after I talked to [head coach Peter Laviolette] and [general manager Paul Holmgren], I really liked what they have to say and where the organization is going. So that made my decision a lot easier.”
Lecavalier was bought-out by the Tampa Bay Lightning, a shock to the NHL. His buyout of $30 million over 14 years broke an NHL record that Ilya Bryzgalov held for only a few hours.
Holmgren was shocked of the buyout too, saying that once he heard the news that the Flyers future plays completely changed.
“I certainly had no idea he was going to be bought out," Holmgren said. "I was at the Board of Governors meeting when that happened, and we changed our plan right away. He all of a sudden moved to the top of our list in terms of forwards."
The Flyers play an up-tempo system, something Lecavalier hasn't played the last three seasons while under head coach Guy Boucher and his terrible trap system that hindered the playing style of Lecavlier.
Lecavalier was asked if he could play 18-20 minutes a game under Laviolette's up-tempo system and he seemed welcoming to the opportunity to be him again.
"I like that better than staying on your heels," Lecavalier said. "I think when you’re on your heels a lot more, you’re not in the game as much, you're not as sharp, as quick. If you're on your toes like the Flyers play, I think it makes you a better hockey player. You're always on the go, you're aggressive in the offensive zone.
"Obviously you've got to play well defensively, but once you're out of that zone, you're skating and you have to skate. So it makes you skate harder and I think it makes you quicker for those 18-20 minutes," Lecavalier added.
The Flyers bought-out veteran winger Danny Briere, opting for a younger and cheaper winger that has had a more productive career. Though Briere was a symbol in Philadelphia, Lecavalier has the ability to fill those shoes playing within a system that benefits his offensive abilities.
He also doesn't want to step on captain Claude Giroux's toes, as Lecavalier knows he's adding a much-needed leadership role.
“Yeah, definitely. I’ll try to bring that in the room," Lecavalier said. "It’s Claude Giroux’s team, and I think he's a great leader. I don't know him that well, but from what I hear, guys just love him and how hard he plays and what he brings to the table."
Lecavalier, who captained the Lightning, doesn't need to wear a letter on his jersey in order to be a leader though. When Jaromir Jagr was in Philadelphia, his jersey didn't have an "A," and the same goes for players like Braydon Coburn and in Simon Gagne's second stint. (Speaking of Gagne, Flyers may not be able to bring him back despite the fact he and Lecavlier are very good friends.)
"I'm going to try to bring my experience and what I've been through. I’ve been through some tough years and I’ve been through some really great years. So I'll bring that in the room, and definitely at my age, older players we have to bring that leadership. It's not just having one leader - you need a lot of good leaders to make sure that team goes in the right direction, and I’m going to try to do that.”
Giroux is excited to play with Lecavalier as well, also echoing the sentiments from the rest of the team about the chance to play with one of the best players in the NHL.
"Growing up I watched him play a lot. I think he’s going to be a player the Flyers fans are going to enjoy watching. He’s an intense guy, he goes to the corners and he plays pretty rough. And obviously he puts the puck in the net. It’s great to have him. I was talking to some of the guys and everybody’s pretty pumped to have him.”
Of all the positives Lecavalier saw with playing in Philadelphia, including his wife falling in love with the South Jersey area for living, Lecavalier is excited to play with another young super star in Giroux.
Lecavalier got to play with Steven Stamkos in Tampa Bay, thought he wasn't on the same line. If he wants to play with Giroux in Philadelphia, he is open to the possibility of playing some wing.
“I’d be very comfortable," Lecavalier said. That’s something I’ve mentioned. I guess they asked me in the meeting if I could play wing, and I said certainly. I’m a lot more comfortable on the right wing, on my off-wing, than on the left side. Right wing for me would be very, very comfortable Going in on the right side is something that I've always felt comfortable with, so right wing would be really good for me.”
With Jakub Voracek having the ability to play both left and right wing, it's a very likely possibility that he can be matched up with Giroux and Voracek on the power play or even strength.
Regardless, Lecavalier is just excited to be in Philadelphia where he can start the next chapter of his illustrious career. And in a city starving for a Stanley Cup parade, Lecavalier could help ease that hunger.