The Philadelphia Flyers have signed veteran center Vincent Lecavalier to a multi-year contract.
The Tampa Bay Lightning let their 33-year-old captain go last week, and the Flyers pounced Tuesday night, signing him to a reported five-year deal worth $22.5 million.
Tampa Bay cut ties with Lecavalier to clear space under a smaller salary cap. The Philadelphia Flyers took advantage of both of their compliance buyouts to release forward Danny Briere and goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.
Lecavalier didn’t mesh with Tampa Bay’s plans, or at least his contract didn’t with seven years and $45 million remaining on it. The four-time All-Star, drafted No. 1 overall by the Lightning in 1998, helped the franchise win the Stanley Cup in 2004 and scored a franchise-high 383 goals.
By buying him out, it saved Tampa Bay more than $7.7 million cap space for the upcoming season. The move cost them $32 million over 14 years because he is due two-thirds the value of his deal spread over twice the term of the contract. He scored a league-high 52 times during the 2006-07 season and had 32 points in 39 games during the shortened season.
Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren met with Lecavalier on Saturday, a day before the NHL draft. He also met with Boston general manager Peter Chiarelli over the weekend in Newark, N.J., the site of the draft, and considered Montreal, as well.
“Montreal is a special place with a lot of history and it can offer a lot,” Lecavalier said after the buyout was announced. “They have a good team, they proved it last year, so I’m open to Montreal. But I’m not closing the door on anyone. The door is open for everyone and after that we’ll see.”
Lecavalier had signed an 11-year deal with Tampa Bay in 2008. He had 10 goals and 32 points in 39 games last season for the Lightning.
The Flyers went 23-22-3 and were 10th in the Eastern Conference with 49 points. After jettisoning several goal-scoring veterans, the Flyers struggled with their offense and hope Lecavalier can bring some punch to the lineup. The 6-foot-4, 208-pound center is no longer the serious threat that he once was.
The Flyers desperately need to shore up their defense and another goalie to work in a tandem with Steve Mason. Under owner Ed Snider, the Flyers have long made offseason splashes by going after the biggest names on the market. They did it again by bringing the 33-year-old Lecavalier to town.
Prior to missing the postseason this year, Philadelphia lost in the second round two seasons in a row after advancing to the Stanley Cup final in 2010.
In that Stanley Cup run of nine years ago, Lecavalier and the Lightning outlasted the Flyers in a memorable Eastern Conference final series. Tamp Bay then went on to win their first championship by defeating Calgary in seven games.