Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Lecavalier in Red, White, Blue?

Definitely a growing possibility! He's been rumored in trades involving Montreal since the trade deadline, and those rumors are intensifying as the NHL draft approaches, and the closer we get to the July 1st deadline. On the 1st, Lecavalier's 11 yr- $85 million contract signed last year kicks in, along with a "no-trade" clause.

As of today, it seems likely that the Tampa Bay captain will be traded before July 1st; perhaps as soon as Draft day (in Montreal).

There has been conflict in Tampa's ownership, as owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie seem to diverge in terms of vision, and how the team should be handled in preparation for next year, and the following years.

Koules would like to see the team's salary cap at around $40million next year, and would therefore attempt to trade Lecavalier's contract ($7.72mil avg. cap hit) before the no-movement clause kicks in. His partner, Barrie, would rather see the organization keep Lecavalier, rebuild around him, and spend around $50million in salary next season. The Tampa Bay Lightning's financial difficulties are of no surprise, due to today's economic recession and rather small fan base in a non-hockey market.

Today, a meeting was scheduled between NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and the Lightning's two owners, with the purpose of determining who is in charge of hockey operations. Bettman decided that Koules would retain his status of president and governor inside his organization, while Barrie's right to talk to player agents and other NHL GMs was reportedly removed. However, Barrie still retains his right to veto any transaction approved by current GM Brian Lawton.

With these latest developments, the situation regarding Lecavalier is sparking rumors once again that Tampa Bay might move their franchise player to shed some salary (Vinny is due a whopping $10mil next year, as well as the five years after that) and get a very interesting return, helping 'fastforward' the necessary rebuild with the team.

The team, sitting at #2 in Friday's draft in Montreal, will either draft goal-scoring forward John Tavares or 6'5 'Pronger-like' defenseman Victor Hedman. It might be time for Tampa to rebuild with young talent (Stamkos taken #1 overall last year, and this year's #2), and ride the waves for a few years, while those waves become a storm for teams spending around the salary cap. The cap is predicted to go down gradually in the next few years, drastically impacting all 30 NHL teams.

However, one team that is in pretty good position with a lot of financial flexibility, would be the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs, with 10 unrestricted free agents to be re-signed, has the luxury, and $, to bring about much-needed change and build the team they want for next year. GM Bob Gainey will have the most money available to spend this summer, and it isn't far-fetched at all to think he is seriously looking to acquire center Vincent Lecavalier, the Quebec-raised NHL star and big center that has been lacking on the CH team for years now. Even President Pierre Boivin stated publicly he's committed to bringing home a French superstar.

But at what price? Rumors are swirling the name of Markov around, seeing as Tampa Bay would like to acquire, and are probably demanding, an elite defenseman in return for their captain. We know Bob Gainey isn't really the type to pull the trigger on such trades. Would he be willing to part with his Norris-trophy finalist in Andrei Markov? It's a touch call, especially with the looming possibility that Komisarek will walk and sign a contract elsewhere. Perhaps Gainey can persuade Lawton and Lightning ownership to accept defensive prospects Subban or McDonagh instead in a package deal. This would give Tampa Bay every tool to rebuild around young players with the potential to become elite players in the game (Stamkos, Tavares/Hedman, Subban/McDonagh/Pacioretty/D'Agostini/Kostitsyns?, etc)... and with cheap rookie salaries for the next few years.

Of course, Montreal isn't the only team interested in Lecavalier's services. But it seems evident Gainey, along with new Molson ownership, are making Lecavalier one of their top priorities, heading into the draft. Gainey hasn't signed a single free agent as of today, and it seems he is waiting to see what will happen this friday at the Draft, before investing his money in his free agents. It should also be noted that Vinny has repeatedly stated that the Lightning organization has vowed to include him in any trade talk, and one could think he'd make it known that his preferred destination would be his hometown, Montreal. Lecavalier signed a long-term deal with them last year, with the intent of ending his career with the team he won a Stanley Cup with. If that very team regrettably decides he does not fit into their plans for the future, at the very least they owe him the right to decide where he would like to go for the next 11 years.

With all that said, it suddenly doesn't seem as crazy to imagine Vincent Lecavalier with the Canadiens. Yes, there are a lot of "if"s. If Gainey is willing to part with top talent, if Lightning GM and ownership decide that they cannot afford Lecavalier's monster contract, if other teams don't offer a better deal, if, if, if. One thing is for sure, though, the stars are certainly aligning in such a way that makes it plausible to see Vincent in Montreal... as early as this Friday, during the NHL Draft.

Gary Bettman: "I have a trade to announce. The Tampa Bay Lightning have decided to trade..."

(Hold your breath for just three more days... I know I am)

1 comment:

  1. Oula c'est sérieux tout ça. Je ne suis pas vraiment le hockey mais c'était un joli texte!