Possible trade destinations for Lecavalier

Ever since Vincent Lecavalier was drafted into the NHL by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1998, there have been rumors of him being traded to the Montréal Canadiens. For the most part, it’s just been wishful thinking by Montréal fans because they want the best French Canadian NHLers to play for the Canadiens. Last January, according to Montréal’s general manager Bob Gainey, those ever-present rumors came close to becoming reality.

It’s a well-known fact that the Tampa Bay Lightning are not in the best financial situation. But a lot of teams in the NHL aren’t, so that’s not too surprising. It’s also a well-known fact that Vinny has an 11-year, $85 million contract extension with a no-trade clause that kicks in July 1st. Potentially, the option that is now on the table that may ease some of the Lightning’s financial pain is to trade Lecavalier for some desperately needed defense, draft picks, and/or prospects.

Unfortunately, contracts in the NHL cannot be renegotiated once they’ve been signed. So the natural assumption has been that the Lightning would probably trade Lecavalier before July 1st while they’re still able to. And the most likely scenario would be to trade him either right before or at the draft – which, interestingly enough, is in Montréal this June. Though the rumors have been going on for years, do the Canadiens really have a need for a player such as Vinny?

Montréal is hardly the only team in the NHL that could be interested in Tampa Bay’s captain. Just because there haven’t been many rumors about trading Lecavalier to other teams doesn’t mean that teams around the league aren’t evaluating what they have and thinking about making their own offers. Obviously, though, not every team will be able to pull off such a trade.

There are a number of teams that could use a top-line center. And there are a few teams that were very disappointed in their playoff showing that could be looking to revamp their lineup. Based on those two criteria, as well as team depth charts, the current salary cap (which isn’t expected to change much next season), monies committed towards the salary cap for the next two seasons, and the number of restricted free agents (RFAs) and unrestricted free agents (UFAs), a list can be made as to which teams that might be in the running.

First, a couple of notes: All the numbers are from the 2008-2009 season unless otherwise noted. The centers listed were chosen according to who scored the most points at that position for each team. Information about no-trade clauses was not available. The current cap floor is $40.7 million, while the current cap ceiling is $56.7 million. And as for Lecavalier himself, keep in mind that his numbers are from a season when Vinny was playing with a bad wrist and recovering from shoulder surgery.

Tampa Bay – 14th in the Eastern Conference
○ $38.595 million (’09-’10)
   ○ 7 UFAs, 6 RFAs
○ Vincent Lecavalier: 6’4", 225 lbs., 29 years old
   ○ 77 games – 29 G, 38 A, 67 P, 54 PIM, -9
   ○ $10 million (‘09-‘10), $10 million (’10-’11)

Eastern Conference

Boston – 1st in the Eastern Conference; lost to #6 Carolina in the second round
○ $46.733 million (’09-’10)
   ○ 6 UFAs, 4 RFAs
○ Marc Savard: 5’10", 195 lbs, 32 years old
   ○ 82 games; 25 G, 63 A, 88 P, 70 PIM, +25
   ○ $5 million (‘09’10), UFA (’10-’11)

Boston is in an intriguing situation. While they certainly aren’t happy with falling out in the second round, they did have a lot of injuries and it was an improvement over last season’s one series-and-done performance. Their salary cap is a bit high as well, but may want to tweak their lineup a bit, which is why they’re included on this list. They’re pretty deep at defense, so the Lightning might have a variety of return possibilities from the Bruins.

Montréal – 9th in the Eastern Conference
○ $23.521 million (’09-’10)
   ○ 10 UFAs, 5 RFAs
○ Saku Koivu: 5’10", 185 lbs., 33 years old
   ○ 65 games – 16 G, 34 A, 50 P, 44 PIM, +4
   ○ UFA (‘09-‘10)

Surprisingly, Montréal does have need for a top-line center. Nothing against Koivu, of course, but there is the potential for the Canadiens to not re-sign him. They were very disappointed in how they finished this season, and are looking to overhaul the team. There are rumors that the current owners are looking to sell, they do need a new head coach, and Gainey’s position as the general manager isn’t all that secure. While they are also fairly deep back on the blue line, the defenseman that keeps getting mentioned in the Montréal-Tampa Bay trade rumors is Mike Komisarek. And then there’s the added bonus that they’ve long wanted Vinny in a Habs’ uniform, so they might be willing to give more up to the Lightning than other teams would for him.

Western Conference

Edmonton – 11th in the Western Conference
○ $46.946 million (’09-’10)
   ○ 3 UFAs, 4 RFAs
○ Shawn Horcoff: 6’1", 200 lbs, 30 years old
   ○ 80 games – 17 G, 36 A, 53 P, 39 PIM, +7
   ○ $7 million (‘09-‘10), $6.5 million (‘10-‘11)

Edmonton isn’t as deep, but they are looking to revamp their team as well. Defensively, they’re okay after you get past Sheldon Souray. But they are very interested in adding more scoring up front.

Los Angeles
– 14th in the Western Conference
○ $43.188 million (’09-’10)
   ○ 2 UFAs, 3 RFAs
○ Anze Kopitar: 6’4", 220 lbs, 22 years old
   ○ 82 games – 27 G, 39 A, 66 P, 32 PIM, -17
   ○ $6.8 million (‘09-‘10), $6.8 million (‘10-‘11)

LA is a younger team that hasn’t been doing as well as they’d like. They’re looking to move up in the standings and could use some veteran talent. Rumors have it that defenseman Jack Johnson is not happy in LA and would like to be moved. Most importantly, they have plenty of cap room. This is a team that may be willing to give away some draft picks.

Nashville
– 10th in the Western Conference
○ $32.987 million (’09-’10)
   ○ 8 UFAs, 2 RFAs
○ Jason Arnott: 6’3", 220 lbs., 34 years old
   ○ 65 games – 33 G, 24 A, 57 P, 49 PIM, +2
   ○ $4.5 million (‘09-‘10), $4.5 million (‘10-‘11)

Nashville is a bit more financially stable than people think, which is why they made this list. They have some older forwards and could use someone in their prime. They’re pretty deep at defense, and though most of their defensemen are in their 30s, that would definitely be a benefit for the much younger Lightning defense.

San Jose
– 1st in the Western Conference; lost to #8 Anaheim in the first round
○ $46.751 million (’09-’10)
   ○ 8 UFAs, 4 RFAs
○ Joe Thornton: 6’4", 235 lbs., 30 years old
   ○ 82 games – 25 G, 61 A, 86 P, 56 PIM, +16
   ○ $7.2 million (‘09-‘10), $7.2 million (‘10-‘11)

It’s pretty safe to say that the San Jose Sharks were not happy with their playoff performance. Being the number one team in the NHL and then losing to the eighth seed is obviously not a good showing. Thornton, in particular, has been singled out as having had a very poor playoff series. So poor, in fact, that there have been people in Canada questioning whether or not he should be on the Olympic team. If the Lightning want to pull off a one-for-one trade, this one could be it.

Vancouver – 3rd in the Western Conference; lost to #4 Chicago in the second round
○ $33.283 million (’09-’10)
   ○ 9 UFAs, 3 RFAs
○ Henrik Sedin: 6’2", 195 lbs., 29 years old
   ○ 82 games – 22 G, 6 A, 82 P, 48 PIM, +22
   ○ UFA (‘09-‘10)

Vancouver has a very interesting situation on their hands. Both Daniel and Henrik Sedin are UFAs this summer, as is D Mattias Ohlund. Goalie Roberto Luongo is being painted as the scapegoat for losing in the second round. And there are a couple of players that might prefer a change of scene, Tayler Pyatt being one of those because of his recent tragedy. Vancouver’s a team in flux, and they might be willing to give up quite a lot for Lecavalier. Already the names of both Sedins, Ohlund, and Luongo are being mentioned in some block buster trade rumors.

Where Lecavalier might go, and who for, is still up in the air. There are possibilities outside of Montréal, however. Surprisingly, Montréal itself seems to have a legitimate reason for making a trade. And with a little more than a month until the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, as well as free agency starting on July 1st, the situation will start becoming clearer soon enough. The rumor mill will start up again in earnest, and more player names and teams will be added to the list. Then we will all finally see if Vincent Lecavalier ends up staying in Tampa Bay – or not – after all.

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