No need to mortgage puck futures for Lecavalier
|01.15.09 at 1:08 pm ET|
I’ll admit that it’s tempting on some level of pure hockey fantasy.
The pipe dream of plucking center Vinny Lecavalier from the hockey war zone in Tampa Bay and immediately dressing him up in one of those bad-ass “Back in Black” Bruins third jerseys could be tantalizing for those needing/wanting/craving a franchise player on Causeway Street. The kind of hockey rink solar source that would serve as the center for a bunch of lesser hockey playing constellations deigned to orbit around Vinny as the points pile up on the scoreboard. A player like the 28-year-old LeCavalier that has averaged 100 points over the last two seasons and indeed does have a Stanley Cup championship on his puck resume is something with some cachet.
These hockey facts are all true and indisputable, but lets also take a peek at a few other fun factoids: Lecavalier has a career +/- of -75 and has always battled through serious issues while trying to play the responsible two-way hockey that’s become a B’s staple during coach Claude Julien’s tenure. LeCavalier has also only cracked 80 points twice in his nine-year NHL career, which doesn’t exactly scream out “must have”.
That’s right…you heard that correctly. Vastly underrated B’s center Marc Savard has as many 80 plus point seasons in his NHL career as the highly-touted Lecavalier in his deservedly lauded NHL body of work – the underrated B’s center just doesn’t have the scout’s dream size (6-foot-4, 220-pounds) or the cachet of being a first overall pick in the NHL draft as Lecavalier does.
Big Vinny from the North End of Montreal (not really, but that sounded so natural…didn’t it?) is a left-handed shot and a bona fide, ‘Grade A’ NHL center — a pair of attributes that the B’s front office rightfully covets — but he’s also about to become a non-trade-able commodity on July 1 when he begins making a $10 million annual salary along with a roster-clogging cap hit of $7.72 million. The 11-year, $85 million deal will take Lecavalier through the 2019-2020 NHL season when the big center is 40 years-old, and a final judgement will finally be made about the fiscal prudence of the jumbo contracts handed out to hockey’s superstars once the new CBA was adopted.
If the salary cap plateaus or recedes as many suspect it will in the coming years, Lecavalier’s contract might as well arrive on Causeway Street complete with a pair of stainless steel handcuffs and a “How to win with a roster full of AHL players” handbook.
This is the reason why a Tampa Bay ownership group — one that hasn’t exactly draped themselves in glory during their first half-season in power – is looking to deal the lamp-lighting lug. This is why the Lightning are looking to fleece the Bruins of a group of young assets that have set the NHL on their collective ear during the first half of the hockey season.
If Lecavalier is as good as advertised, it begs the question why the Lightning weren’t any better last year when they had a host of talented players including Martin St. Louis and Dan Boyle. It’s a pretty simple answer, actually.
So much cap space was locked into the skill players that Tampa Bay was cap-strapped and couldn’t afford to fashion themselves a deep, gritty, hockey team properly outfited for a run at the Stanley Cup. This is a virtual crystal ball for what the hockey Hub could become if any combination of Phil Kessel/David Krejci and Milan Lucic/Blake Wheeler along with draft picks were shipped to the Sunshine State for Lecavalier.
Word out of Montreal is that the Canadiens are hell-bent on acquiring Lecavalier, the native son of Quebec, and they want to do it before the NHL All-Star Game next weekend. Hopefully GM Peter Chiarelli and the B’s front office are stoking the rumors of interest in Lecavalier to raise the price tag for the hated Habs while privately informing his players — guys like Krejci, Wheeler and Lucic that aren’t going anywhere, anytime soon — that their futures are in Black and Gold. It’s a page right out of the Red Sox/Yankees struggle for supremacy, and it’s the only way the Bruins should be involved in any talks for Vinny L.
The future is blindingly bright and the Bruins are battling through injuries that will likely bring about hockey trades to fill needs along the power play and blueline, but there’s no need to blow it up and bring in another Joe Thornton-type to Boston. The current team of skaters have captured the fan’s imaginations with their sheer youthful talent and their Old Time Hockey watch-each-other’s-back tightness.
Now isn’t the time to go back to the Old Way of doing things at the Garden, and a deal for Lecavalier would be a hugely misbegotten move in that wrong-headed direction. The reason the B’s are having success is because they’ve bathed themselves in depth and flexibility, and one big trade for My Center Vinny would wipe all that out in one fell swoop.
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