As Tampa Bay Lightning fans mourn the buyout of Vincent Lecavalier, the rest of the league speculates where he'll sign as an unrestricted free agent on July 5.
Given the lack of quality free agent centers, Lecavalier could be the most sought-after player in this summer's market.
The automatic assumption is Lecavalier will sign with the Montreal Canadiens. A native of the Montreal suburb of Ile Bizard, Lecavalier was linked to the Canadiens several years ago before signing his long-term contract with the Lightning.
Another possibility is the Detroit Red Wings, the team he cheered for growing up.
Lecavalier hasn't stated any preferences. “My door is open to everybody,” he said in a recent interview.
That's good news for clubs in the market for scoring centers, like the Red Wings, Washington Capitals, and Toronto Maple Leafs.
Don't expect Lecavalier, 33, to seek merely a one-year contract and then attempt to return to the Lightning next summer on a more affordable deal. His preference is “a contract which can bring me to retirement”.
That could mean a four- or five-year contract worth between $4-5 million per season. While no longer a first-line star, Lecavalier, who received more than $32 million via his buyout, won't have any difficulty attracting lucrative offers.
The Canadiens (having used their remaining compliance buyout on Tomas Kaberle) have a little more than $9 million in cap space. Adding Lecavalier, however, would raise questions over the future of current Habs centers Tomas Plekanec and David Desharnais.
The Red Wings ($10.6 million in cap space) are unwilling to pay $5-million per season to re-sign Valtteri Filppula, but could pony up that much for Lecavalier.
Doing so, however, would leave limited space to re-sign key free agents like Damien Brunner and Daniel Cleary. The Wings could free up additional space via trades or buyouts of Mikael Samuelsson, Carlo Colaiacovo, Jordin Tootoo or Cory Emmerton.
The Capitals could be interested in Lecavalier if they lose Mike Ribeiro to free agency, but they only have $5.7 million in cap space.
They could free up space with compliance buyouts of Joel Ward ($3 million) and Jeff Schultz ($2.75 million), but they must also re-sign Karl Alzner, Marcus Johansson and Matt Hendricks.
As for the Leafs, they have the space ($19.6 million), but also have to re-sign restricted free agents Nazem Kadri, Jonathan Bernier, Cody Franson and Carl Gunnarsson, plus re-sign or replace pending unrestricted free agent center Tyler Bozak.
Lecavalier has better offensive skills than Bozak and could be a good fit with first line star Phil Kessel, but his age, injury history and declining skills make him an expensive gamble.
With the start of free agency only a week away, expect more teams to pop up as suitors for the former Lightning captain.
In other notable rumors:
– Lightning GM Steve Yzerman doesn't intend to use his second compliance buyout this summer, which is good news for winger Ryan Malone. Yzerman was reportedly shopping Malone, but in the wake of the Lecavalier buyout, he could be off the trade block.
– Lecavalier isn't the only recently bought-out center who could attract attention in the free agent market. Former Philadelphia Flyer Daniel Briere has been linked to the St. Louis Blues and Ottawa Senators in the rumor mill.
Over the past four seasons, the 35-year-old Briere garnered a reputation as a clutch playoff performer. His experience and leadership should prove attractive in the free agent market, making him an affordable, short-term alternative to Lecavalier.
– Defenseman Kris Letang reportedly expressed interest in a trade to the Toronto Maple Leafs if efforts to re-sign with the Pittsburgh Penguins fell through.
That brought a swift denial from Letang's agent Kent Hughes: “We haven't discussed the Toronto Maple Leafs. Period.” Hughes added that his camp's focus remains negotiating a contract extension with the Penguins.
Those negotiations could be in jeopardy, however, as, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Letang camp rejected an eight-year, $54 million offer from the Penguins. It's believed he’s seeking $7.5 million per season, which could prove too rich for the Penguins blood.
– The Vancouver Canucks enter the draft weekend hoping to trade goaltender Roberto Luongo, but that could prove a difficult task.
Having tried unsuccessfully for a year to move Luongo, Canucks GM Mike Gillis isn't dealing from a position of strength. With limited cap space, Gillis cannot afford to keep the 34-year-old netminder for another season.
To facilitate a trade, Gillis could end up absorbing part of Luongo's contract. If unable to trade him this weekend, a compliance buyout could be their last option.
– The Chicago Blackhawks are reportedly shopping center Dave Bolland, who scored the Cup-clinching goal in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final on Monday.
Bolland, 27, has one year remaining on his contract worth $3.4 million. While the Blackhawks buying out Steve Montador and Rostislav Olesz to free up cap space, shopping Bolland could be the precursor to re-signing winger Bryan Bickell.
Rumor Roundup appears weekdays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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