Lecavalier still set on retirement after strong stretch with Kings

(Photo by Aaron Poole/NHLI via Getty Images)

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Vincent Lecavalier hasn’t thought of signing his retirement paperwork yet. The emotions of losing in the first-round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs to the San Jose Sharks in five games are still too raw.

“I haven’t done anything. It’s only been a couple of days so I’m not sure how things will be handled or whatever,” the 36-year-old Lecavalier said. “Not quite sure. I haven’t talked to my agent about it on how things will actually go.”

Even though Lecavalier certainly played well enough in his stint with the Los Angeles Kings this year to merit at least another season, he still said he has played his last NHL game, ending some speculation he may return.

“Yeah, it’s definitely still the plan. I haven’t thought about it the last couple of days,” Lecavalier said. “It’s the same plan as when I first got here three months ago.”

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After a trade to LA from the Philadelphia Flyers, Lecavalier found a niche on the Kings’ third line and had 10 goals in 42 games played. With the Flyers he had one assist in seven games and often found himself a healthy scratch. During that stretch, Lecavalier doggedly practiced in order to keep himself in shape in case a trade and an opportunity materialized.

In five games this postseason with the Kings he had one goal and one assist while averaging 14:20 of ice-time.

Lecavalier said in the handshake line after his team was ousted by the Sharks, some players told him to keep playing.

“I mean, that last shift, I was out there the last 22 seconds, definitely a weird feeling,” Lecavalier said. “A tough series I think could have gone either way but there has to be a winner so you have to give them credit for them.”

In some ways, Lecavalier may have been able to play longer if not for his contract situation. He has two years left on his deal at $2.25 million salary cap hit per-season. That number doesn’t fit with the Kings’ structure.

After the Tampa Bay Lightning bought him out in the summer of 2013, he signed a four-year deal with the Philadelphia Flyers. Philly retained half the deal in the trade.

A major reason why Lecavalier signed with the Flyers was to play for then-coach Peter Laviolette. He never had the opportunity since Laviolette was fired three games into the 2013-14 season. Lecavalier didn't seem to fit with the bench bosses that came after Laviolette.

“Back in November I was talking to Luke (Schenn) and I was like ‘I think I may be stuck here (in Philadelphia), I’m not playing.’ And getting a chance to play on this team, we didn’t go where we wanted to go at the end of it but to have a chance to play and have fun and to learn,” Lecavalier said. “It’s just a great time.”

Lecavalier’s oldest child is in school in the LA area, so he’ll stick around for the next several weeks. Then he said he’ll probably return to Tampa, where he played from the 1998-99 season through the 2012-13 season.

Lecavalier will finish a sterling career where he played 1,212 games, scored 421 goals and notched 949 points. He won a Stanley Cup and the 2007 Rocket Richard Trophy. When he arrived in Tampa after being picked first overall in the NHL Draft, expectations were sky high, especially when then-owner Art Williams called him the "Michael Jordan of hockey."

Lecavalier didn't quite hit Jordan levels of excellence, but he was still one of the NHL's best, and most marketable, players for several years in his prime.

“I remember when I was 24 years old and people still ask you that question, ‘what are you going to do after hockey?’” Lecavalier said. “And every time I’d be like ‘I’ll figure it out when that happens.’ I still really haven’t figured it out.”