Originally posted on The Detroit Sports Site  |  Last updated 6/27/13
Vinny Lecavalier could be the missing piece up front for the Red Wings. The Tampa Bay Lightning announced Thursday that they will use a compliance buyout on center and captain Vincent Lecavalier, who has been with the franchise since being taken No. 1 in the 1998 draft. The move, once it becomes official (Lecavalier must pass through waivers to be bought out), could be just the break the Red Wings were hoping for in free agency. Detroit has a stockpile of forwards ready to contribute next season — 12 under contract, plus a couple more coming up from the AHL and Daniel Cleary/Damien Brunner still re-sign possibilities. What they do not have, especially if Valtteri Filppula bolts via free agency as expected, is enough punch on lines one and two. That’s been the case for multiple seasons now, made more evident when guys like Johan Franzen slump or Todd Bertuzzi is sidelined by injury. The 33-year-old Lecavalier may solve that problem. He’s a long way removed from his 108-point outburst in 2006-07 and has not played a full season since ’09-10, but not only would Lecavalier replace Filppula as a top-six center, he’d improve the Wings at that spot. Last season was considered a bit of a down year for Lecavalier — he finished with 10 goals and 22 assists. Filppula, while playing in two more regular-season games, had nine goals and eight assists. Lecavalier also fits the Red Wings’ mold as a player who’s well-respected in the locker room, has experienced the NHL game at all levels (including a Stanley Cup win), can excel in multiple zones and thrives on the power play. Dropping him into the lineup would allow Mike Babcock to keep Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg together atop the first line, if he so desired, while upgrading the punch that line two brought to the table. Financially, would this make sense for Detroit? Lecavalier figures to receive a heavy dose of attention on a thin free-agent market, but let’s keep in mind that Tampa Bay still must pay Lecavalier two-thirds of the total money he’s owed on his deal, which works out to upwards of $30 million. In other words, while he’s not going to play for a veteran minimum, Lecavalier should be able to pick the best situation for himself without worrying too much about breaking the bank. That’s music to the Wings’ ears. They have been unwilling to waver much on their offers to Filppula, who’s reportedly seeking a multi-year deal in excess of $5 million per year. Though he has been a solid contributor for the Red Wings and appears to have several good years left, Filppula might not be worth that to Detroit given his up-and-down performance on the ice. Lecavalier, however, would justify even more than that. And the Wings might be able to swing it, too, if they use a compliance buyout or two of their own, or if they can move Carlo Colaiacovo ($2.5 million in 2013-14) as they may try to do at the draft. There are not many players expected to be available that the Wings would consider shifting pieces to accommodate. Lecavalier might be an exception to the rule. He fits the criteria Detroit is searching for this offseason, and his addition would be a huge boost for the Wings as they move to the Eastern Conference.
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