July 9, 2013
By Nick Tricome
It's hard to imagine Vincent Lecavalier wearing the colors of any other team but the Tampa Bay Lightning.
On Tuesday, though, the day finally came.
At the conclusion of the introductory press conference for the Flyers' newest signings in center Lecavalier, defenseman Mark Streit and goaltender Ray Emery, the three of them put on their orange and black sweaters for the first time (well, second time in Emery's case).
No one looked more different than Lecavalier.
The former Lightning captain had his contract bought out at the end of June. He was in the fourth of an 11-year, $85 million contract that carried an annual cap hit north of $7.7 million.
The 33-year old center spent all 14 years of his career, thus far, in Tampa Bay and won a Stanley Cup in 2004 with the only franchise he has ever known.
"When I got the call last week it was pretty hard," Lecavalier said. "I've been a Lightning for 14 years, but I think it's a fresh start."
"[Philadelphia is] a great hockey market and a great organization," he said. "You got great young players like Claude Giroux. A lot and lot of good young players and I'm just happy to be here and help this team out."
It didn't take long for Lecavalier to decide on where he wanted to play next.
About a week after being notified that the Lightning were going to buy out his contract, Lecavalier agreed to terms on a five-year, $22.5 million deal with the Flyers.
After he signed the new contract, Lecavalier said that the Flyers became his top choice after he had a first meeting with them. He reinforced that at the press conference on Tuesday.
"I said that last week, but I went through a lot that day being bought out," Lecavalier said. "But like any other player, I made a list and right after I met with this organization they went straight to the top of the list."
"From [head coach Peter Laviolette's] style of play to just the organization, the team, the players, the roster, who I was going to come and play with, I was just really excited about it," Lecavalier added. "I left that meeting, I was like "wow this is a great meeting," and I was talking to my agent, my brother was there. So, that is when I decided that I want to be part of the Flyers."
The Flyers wanted him to be a part of their team as well. It's hard for any of the 28 (can't include the Lightning) NHL clubs to not want him.
Even though his offensive production has gone down over the past few years, Lecavalier is still very capable of being a 20-plus goal scorer and is a more than capable second-line center, should Laviolette opt to use him in the lineup that way.
Plus, Lecavalier has scored 383 goals and 491 assists in 1,037 regular season games, won the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy (league's leading goal-scorer) in the 2006-07 season, has 52 points in 63 career playoff games and helped Tampa Bay win its first Stanley Cup in 2004.
A veteran with that much experience can help any team.
"When you get to the playoffs you go through a lot of ups and downs in a few months," Lecavalier said. "You need that leadership, that experience. Guys like, even Dave Andreychuk, he had never won the cup, but he brought that experience to calm the guys down in the locker room and all that."
"I've been in the league for 14 years now," he said. "I'll definitely try to bring that experience to help out the younger guys and guys that have never been in the playoffs or have been there."
Lecavalier wants to help the Flyers as much as he can and feels that coach Laviolette's system is a good fit for him to be able to do so.
"[Laviolette's system] is really upbeat and I really like that," Lecavalier said. "I want to be on my toes when I play the game. I don't want to be on my heels."
"Obviously, a smart defensive game is really important," he noted. "I think he has that as a coach, he's a very smart coach. But when you get the puck you want to go, you want to skate. You want to play to in their zone. From playing against him here in Philly and Carolina I thought it was a really tough team to play against and that is why I want to be a part of it."
Lecavalier likes what he sees in the Flyers and put pen to paper to be a part of their immediate future. Now he is set on trying to bring hockey's ultimate prize to a city that hasn't had it in 38 years.
"We want to win," Lecavalier said. "We're guys (him and Emery) who have won the Stanley Cup and I want to bring that to Philly."
(Image from Yahoo Sports and the Associated Press)