Flyers sign Vinny Lecavalier to 5-year deal; let the cap space clearing begin!

The Philadelphia Flyers began the day among the top three teams in the Vincent Lecavalier Derby. But the free-agent center’s demands were too rich for the Detroit Red Wings, and the Dallas Stars later confirmed they were out of the running as well.

The last team standing was the Flyers, who put Vincent Lecavalier in orange and black with a 5-year, $22.5 million deal for a $4.5 million cap hit – making him the second-highest paid forward on the team behind Scott Hartnell ($4.75 million.)

As a straight one-for-one upgrade over Danny Briere, it’s a win for the Flyers. But it’s more complicated than that.

There’s going to be a lot of attention paid to the other salaries on the Flyers, because the team began the day with just $4.18 million in cap space, per Cap Geek. That’s without a goalie to complement Steve Mason. That’s with new contracts due to Claude Giroux, Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier and (if they keep him) Kimmo Timonen next summer.

(Wait … the Flyers might overspend at other positions and try to go goaltending on the cheap? It’s like the 1990s never ended!)

One imagines Braydon Coburn’s $4.5 million cap hit, and three remaining contract years, will be shipped out to compensate. His name was being bandied about at the NHL Draft, with the Edmonton Oilers a specific target.

Here’s Broad Street Hockey’s take on the cons for the Vinny deal:

The deal puts the Flyers right back over the salary cap. They had $4.18 million in space before the deal, and they still need to sign a starting or tandem starting goaltender. This is probably where the Braydon Coburn trade talk from the weekend comes into play, but I'd still rather trade Andrej Meszaros for a bag of pucks to get some cap savings. Once the season starts, Chris Pronger's LTIR relief will help as well. There's also a full no-move clause in the deal, because Lecavalier was going to get that from just about any team at this stage of his career. High-powered free agents get NMCs.

Why the Flyers for Vinny? They came close to the 5 years at $5 million he was looking for and play in the Eastern Conference. (Hey, he can knock off some dough from the price tag, getting $32.667 million over the next 14 years from the Tampa Bay Lightning.) His versatility at forward means he could play up with Claude Giroux or as a second-line center.

Why Vinny for the Flyers? They wanted a second line center with size. They wanted some veteran leadership. And let’s face it: There’s never been a big name that Ed Snider didn’t covet, whether or not it made fiscal or strategic sense.

Does this make sense? Again, they did have a need at forward, although the solution didn’t necessarily have to be a 33-year-old and a 5-year contract. But their needs were so much more glaring on the back end that this signing feels abjectly irresponsible.

Yes, they’re going to sell a metric ton of Lecavalier Flyers gear; perhaps that’ll offset the cost of having Steve Mason, Affordable Other Goaltender and a questionable defense on the backend.

We much preferred last summer’s Philadelphia Flyers Star-[expletiving].