Answering The Lecavalier Questions


Rumours of Vincent Lecavalier one day becoming a Montreal Canadien will likely never cease until it actually does occur or he takes his retirement. As rumours go, this one seems to have nine lives, refusing to die a quiet death. The latest incarnation, has both teeth and legs, apparently.

Since speculation went from a simmer to a boil two days ago, many Canadiens fans have had time to mull Lecavalier over, and peer into what the future may hold for the team if such a transaction were to be completed.

Straight off the top, I'll openly admit that to me, the thought of Lecavalier in a Habs jersey is an exciting and alluring scenario. I wanted to post on here about it the minute I heard the first rumblings, but the more I thought about it, and the more that dream needed to be digested, the more I pondered giving the whole thing a few days to settle in.

With all the brouhaha created, I summised that a Tampa statement of clarification or denial would ensue shortly after the initial explosion of rumours, but surprisingly little has come from any Lightning source to extinguish the speculation. The story originated from TSN's Darren Dregar, to whom few give much creedence to. The following day, when TSN's Bob McKenzie added fuel to it, the whole spectre gained in credibility.

This past summer, when Lecavalier signed an 11 year extension at $85 million dollars, most opinions were that such a contract assured his future in the sunny state. I didn't quite see it that way. As with how random and reckless signings were being tossed about by new Lightning management, I sensed a fiasco underway. The tell tale sign that cowboys were running the opera down south, was bringing in fossil Barry Melrose as coach. The disaster looming looked exactly as it should have. In that context, I saw the Lecavalier contract as an albatross for a franchise in a dubious hockey market.


When Lecavalier inked this deal one year prior to his complete free agency in 2009-10, many Montreal fans took it as a snub of the Canadiens. For his part, Lecavalier briefly pondered the Montreal question, but his lotalty to an organization and fanbase for which he had won a Cup was seemingly unshakable at that point.

In all contexts, such loyalty is an admirable trait for a player, even given the mountains of money included.

At present, Lecavalier's situation in Tampa has soured to the point where both the player and organization need to rethink their positions. Tampa does not appear to be able to assume the contract in the forseeable future. Lecavalier surely wants to play on a competitive team. Beginning next season, Lecavalier's no trade clause kicks in, severely limiting the organization's options.

Currently, it is being explained that Tampa are exploring Lecavalier's market value in order to decide how they will proceed. For them to undertake this properly and intelligently, the question of Montreal has to be scoped and scraped to the bottom. It is being said that there could be as many as five teams in a potential chase for Lecavalier, and nowhere would his worth be higher than in Montreal. For Tampa to get full value for their player, they have to allow the Canadiens to set the bar as high as they wish to go, and then take it from there.

Now this is interesting, as it is my take that Montreal are standing in a position of strength in this, with cap room available next season to work with, and also in having a multitude of assets at their disposal. Tampa Bay in this light, own the biggest asset, but are dealing from a position of weakness.


Another facet of this complicated scenario, is what Lecavalier himself wants. Should he be open to a change of scenery that includes Montreal, one big stepping stone will be crossed. Reports are, that he has in fact given it great consideration, and has allowed Tampa management to proceed in this direction. There will be no admittance or denial from Tampa GM Brian Lawton, the team owners, Bob Gainey or Lecavalier himself on any of this, but it is assumed that there is a trade offer from the Canadiens to take to other clubs to match or fold.

(Update: After posting, I found this article online, and GM Lawton, two days after the story broke, is refuting all possibilities of a Lecavalier deal. Could be truth, and it could be a common denial.)

Once Tampa and Lawton reach the precipice of a decision, if the Canadiens offer emerges as the strongest, the ball will then be in Bob Gainey's court.

Information on such a prospective transaction is mere speculation at this point, but Dregar advanced the names of Tomas Plekanec, Chris Higgins, P.K. Subban and draft choices. McKenzie's report added the name of defenseman Josh Gorges. Speculation again, is that the picks involved are a first rounder, and a second rounder with no specific year attached.

As far as can be told so far, opinions are pretty much split down the middle as to whether Gainey and the Habs should jump all over this or not. On one side, concerns over the length of Lecavalier's deal are mentioned often, as well as the number of players being included being seen as too high a ransom. Takes on the flipside point to the Canadiens depth allowing for such a transaction to make sense, and the worth of bringing in a player of Lecavalier's calibre.

After thinking all of this over for a few days, my inital opinion has not changed. It has in fact solidified. In truth, the one and only red herring is Lecavalier's contract length, but it is almost beside the point.

If we are discussing the superior McKenzie reported offer that includes Josh Gorges, the deal many find as being too high a price to pay, I say it is a no brainer to pass on these assets acquire a player of Lecavalier's stripe. My explanation goes like this:

First off, a centre has to be sacrificed in the trade, and Plekanec is that lamb. For Tampa, Plekanec has much potential and would immediately be capable of assuming the role as their top pivot. The Canadiens would not part with Saku Koivu at center. The Lightning would not be interested in either Koivu or Robert Lang, as they are both UFA's at season's end. Tampa may have considered Maxim Lapierre as well, but as they will be tasked with selling this trade to their market, only Plekanec makes sense to that end.

For Montreal, in that one center position alone, Lecavalier is an incredible upgrade over Plekanec. Down the middle, it would give the Canadiens incredible strength and diversity, filling a need for years to come.

Higgins is a bit of a paradox, often seen in two completely opposite ways. As important to this as how Canadiens fan's viewpoints are, it is how he is perceived around the NHL that estabishes his worth and value. His shortcomings in Montreal may be more well known, but the fact remains that Higgins is a 27 goal scorer with great leadership abilities. A tireless worker, he has much appeal to Tampa, and these reasons are likely why he is so often mentioned when rumours surface. For the Canadiens, Higgins for all he's worth, is a replacable asset. Either of, or all of, Max Pacioretty, Matt D'Agostini, or Guillaume Latendresse could assume Higgins' numbers within a year or two.

In the case of both Plekanec and Higgins, players who contributed a total of 56 goals last season, it must be laid down that neither is enjoying a career season in 2008-09. With injuries to Higgins, the pair have pinched in a mere 14 goals thus far, but yet, the Canadiens seem to be winning despite this. That is a testament to the Canadiens depth, and to the fact that not only are Higgins and Plekanec expendable and replacable, but that it is a process that is already underway.

In Josh Gorges, the Canadiens would be parting with a keeper in some senses. Few are the number of depth defensemen around the league, so efficient and reliable, and at a sensible salary to boot. He is exactly the type of player the Canadiens would be coveting had the Lecavalier scenario not come up. Where parting with Gorges becomes perilous, is in the event of an injury on the Canadiens blueline. With Mathieu Dandenault currently out, and Ryan O' Byrne back in Hamilton, the Habs have no immediate match for Gorges' skill set within their ranks. A different view would be, that as an undrafted player, and a late bloomer, Montreal could, in time, replace his contribution.

Passing up P.K. Subban would be another sore spot. A player who is already a fan favorite despite still being in junior hockey, the upside on Subban is still in debate. He is obviously highly thought of, due to recent accomplishments, and it might be said in hindsight one day, that his value is currently at it's peak. Subban reminds me a great deal of another defenseman that starred for the Canadian World Juniors some time back named John Slaney. Slaney was an even higher esteemed draft pick than Subban and their skill sets and game mentality share a great resemblance. I watched Slaney play two seasons here in Cornwall, and he looked to be everything the scouts said he was - which was a NHL calibre defensive quarterback. Slaney disappointed in time, and never became an NHL regular. He went on to own just about every AHL offensive record for rearguards, while never fully developing into the player everyone expected. While it isn't fair to hang such on Subban, it just goes to show that certain types of players are far from being a sure thing.

Subban's loss, no matter how he turns out, would hardly break the Canadiens back. Montreal have stocked up on D-men in the last few drafts, and have a logjam of prospects waiting in the wings, a few of which might have beaten Subban to Montreal in any case.

With draft choices thrown into the mix, it is impossible to quantify unknown quantities. Suffice to suggest that the picks would not be high choices in either round for the next few seasons.

Parting with these players is not the only crux to a Lecavalier acquisition. A second, mountanous sticking point is his attached salary, and the room it will eat up from the Canadiens cap starting next season.


It is well documented that Montreal have 11 unrestricted free agents to firm up at season's end. In addition, there are five restricted free agent to deal with as well. In the UFA scenarios, the Canadiens are tasked with resigning captain Koivu, Mike Komisarek, Alex Kovalev, Alex Tanguay, Robert Lang, Steve Begin, Tom Kostopoulos, Francis Bouillon, Mathieu Dandenault, Patrice Brisebois, and Marc Denis. In the restricted category are Higgins and Plekanec, Latendresse, D'Agostini and Kyle Chipchura.

With the UFA's, it is doubtful that the team will negotiate with Lang, Dandenault, Brisebois and Denis. Begin and Bouillon would be welcomed back if the price were right. Kostopoulos is welcome to return without a raise. That leaves Komisarek, Koivu, Kovalev and Tanguay. With Lecavalier potentially added to the brew, not all these assets can remain. Komisarek is the priority and he will be held onto unless he decides he is worth more than Andrei Markov. Koivu should also be retained, but a large raise would not be in the offing. It gets tenuous for Kovalev and Tanguay, and one or both might need to be surrendered depending on their demands. Their contributions from this point on until the season's completion will speak for how much they are valued and perhaps how badly they wish to remain in Montreal.

My thinking is that in bringing in Lecavalier, Tanguay is almost a guaranteed goner. I hesitate to put this forth, because he would fit like a glove with the new center. Kovalev is one of the more appreciated Canadiens stars, and wishes to finish his career with Montreal. His performance, as well as his salary concerns, will make or break his case. It might be deemed that with Lacavalier in the mix, fans and team mates might soon be able to forget Kovalev's flash and dazzle.

As for the RFA's, Latendresse, Chipchura, and D'Agostini aren't going anywhere unless they were somehow fit into the Lecavalier deal. All of them can be resigned on the cheap, and this is exactly why they'll be retained in a potential Lecavalier era.

Should Higgins and Plekanec be moved, their contract scenarios would henceforth take care of themselves. As both are subject to respectful increases come July, it might explain exactly why they are rumoured to be included in this deal.

A quick calculation for one scenario would look like this:

If next season, the Canadiens do not retain the likes of the three contracts in the equation, and those of Tanguay, Lang, Dandenault, Brisebois, and Begin, they would be creating a sum space of close to $17.8 million. Lecavalier's contract would subtract close to $8 million from that total, leaving a near ten million on the table to split amongst Komisarek, Koivu, and Kovalev, with splinters for Latendresse, Bouillon, Chipchura, D'Agostini and Kostopoulos.

In one sense, it all appears manageable dollar wise, should all the elements the Canadiens wish to retain steer clear of greedy, unreasonable demands. There is one thing to consider in all this, and that is what happens to player's asking prices if the Canadiens reach the Stanley Cup final, or better yet, win that illustrious and elusive Cup?

On the whole, the Canadiens would be sacrificing a great many assets in order to make room for Vincent Lecavalier. In the scenario above, starting next season, nine bodies will have departed the scene. That appears extreme in number, but is not nearly as tenuous or precarious in quality.

In making a final judgement call on whether the Canadiens should take the risks involved in acquiring Lecavalier and all that such brings forth, it succinctly comes down to whether the Canadiens future can handle it.

Are the players currently in progression on the club ready to assume a larger share of responsibility?

With all these departures, will the Canadiens still retain enough quality talent and skill to maintain their current level of strength?

These are the questions surely trotting around in the heads of the Canadiens brass at this time. If it is decided that the resources are up to par, then the trigger will be pulled.

Some opinions would suggest that the Canadiens have built up their system precisely for this reason - to be able to acquire the calibre of player that they will rarely ever have the chance to draft.

I feel making this deal is a safe thing to do, and a smart risk to take. The Canadiens have the right mix of players at every position to ensure a solid future, despite the assets they would be sacrificing. There are solid core veterans, players currently at their apex, youth that is in continuous progression, and a stable of prospects the envy of the league. Thanks to the great work done by Trevor Timmins and his scouting staff, the Habs are in a great position at present to replenish their resources fairly quickly over the coming seasons.

After all is analysed ad nauseum, the big question comes down to how one views Lecavalier as a potential player on the Canadiens.

I look at it like this. In the past 12 NHL seasons, 50 goal scorers have been a dwindling breed. Even rarer, are centers who have hit that mark. There have been two in fact - Joe Sakic in 2001, and Lecavalier two seasons back. A center that is a scoring threat as much as the wingers he sets up, is often a much tougher opponant to shut down than a center whose main role is supplying wingers with chances.

Lecavalier does both. He is able to because of size and reach, and a willingness to get to the net and play in traffic.

If the Canadiens wish to go from being regarded as simply a legitimate contender for the Cup to a potential favorite, adding a center of Lecavalier's stature is primordial.

Below is a list of the seven top point producing centers over the past three seasons, the current one not included. Seasons are listed from the most recent on.

Thornton 80-255-335 (29-67-96 / 22-92-114 / 29-96-125)

Crosby 99--195-294 (24-48-72 / 36-84-120 / 39-63-102)

Lecavalier 127-148-275 (40-52-92 / 52-56-108 / 35-40-75)

Datsyuk 86-185-271 (31-66-97 / 27-60-87 / 28-59-87)

Spezza 87-182-269 (34-58-92 / 34-53-87 / 19-71-90)

Staal 113-139-252 (38-44-82 / 30-40-70 / 45-55-100)

Zetterberg 115-130-245 (43-49-92 / 33-35-68 / 39-46-85)

Of this group, all but Joe Thornton have played in Stanley Cup final in the past four seasons. Thornton looks headed there this season. In the remaining six, five excluding Jason Spezza, have won a Cup. Of the entire group, no center has scored more goals than Lecavalier.

The year Sakic scored 50? You guessed it, Colorado won the Cup!

Seeing Lecavalier in that light, as a top scoring centerman, with 50 goal potential, and a Stanley Cup ring to his credit, it's hard to imagine why, in any scenario, that the Canadiens would not be interested. Throw in something I consider somewhat irrelevant - his french Canadian heritage - and Lecavalier looks to be an even better fit in the city.

It adds nothing more but mystique, but Lecavalier has played Jean Beliveau in the Rocket movie, and has also been the only Quebec born winner of the Rocket Richard Trophy. He has won an Olympic Gold medal in 2002, and was one of the leaders of Team Canada in that tournament. Two seasons ago, he was the recipient of the King Clancy Trophy, an award given to the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice after having made noteworthy humanitarian contributions in his community.

Lastly, there is the pressure element for a Montreal area player joining the team, and Lecavalier's impact would have huge ripples. At 18, it would have been terribly difficult for him to deal with. At 28, and in his prime, with a world of accomplishments under his belt, I can't think of a player more ready for such a task.

If it isn't Lecavalier then, that player will simply never exist!

Here's a scoop of what has recently been written on the subject, in case you haven't caught them. Michael Farber at SI, McKenzie at TSN, Matthias Brunet at La Presse, a TSN clip, and a retro piece back to 2005 from

Do you feel the Canadiens would be sacrificing too many assets in trading Higgins, Plekanec, Gorges, Subban and two picks, for Vincent Lecavalier.


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