AP FILE PHOTO
Tampa Bay Lightning center Vincent Lecavalier moves down the ice against the New York Rangers in an NHL game in Tampa, Fla. on Feb. 2. A modest crop of NHL free agents got a boost when Lecavalier, Ilya Bryzgalov and Danny Briere joined the market when their former employers decided to buy them out of their contracts.
PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Flyers have signed veteran center Vincent Lecavalier to a multi-year contract.
The Tampa Bay Lightning let their 33-year-old captain go last week, and the Flyers pounced Tuesday night, signing him to a reported five-year deal worth $22.5 million.
Tampa Bay cut ties with Lecavalier to clear space under a smaller salary cap. The Philadelphia Flyers took advantage of both of their compliance buyouts to release forward Danny Briere and goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.
Lecavalier didn’t mesh with Tampa Bay’s plans, or at least his contract didn’t with seven years and $45 million remaining on it.
The four-time All-Star, drafted No. 1 overall by the Lightning in 1998, helped the franchise win the Stanley Cup in 2004 and scored a franchise-high 383 goals.
By buying him out, it saved Tampa Bay more than $7.7 million cap space for the upcoming season.
The move cost them $32 million over 14 years because he is due two-thirds the value of his deal spread over twice the term of the contract. He scored a league-high 52 times during the 2006-07 season and had 32 points in 39 games during the shortened season.
Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren met with Lecavalier on Saturday, a day before the NHL draft. Lecavalier had signed an 11-year deal with Tampa Bay in 2008. He had 10 goals and 32 points in 39 games last season for the Lightning.
The Flyers went 23-22-3 and were 10th in the Eastern Conference with 49 points. After jettisoning several goal-scoring veterans, the Flyers struggled with their offense and hope Lecavalier can bring some punch to the lineup. The 6-foot-4, 208-pound center is no longer the serious threat that he once was.
The Flyers desperately need to shore up their defense and another goalie to work in a tandem with Steve Mason.
Under owner Ed Snider, the Flyers have long made offseason splashes by going after the biggest names on the market. They did it again by bringing the 33-year-old Lecavalier to town. In that Stanley Cup run of nine years ago, Lecavalier and the Lightning outlasted the Flyers in a memorable Eastern Conference final series.
Letang, Penguins agree on a long-term deal
PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins locked up another elite young player long term, announcing Tuesday they had agreed to terms with defenseman Kris Letang.
A finalist for the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman, Letang received an eight-year, $58 million contract extension. He would have entered the final season of an existing contract that carried an annual salary-cap hit of $3.5 million. That will now jump to $7.25 beginning in 2014-15, before which Letang was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent.
Letang, 26, tied for the scoring lead among NHL defensemen last season with 38 points in 35 games. He has 44 goals and 165 assists in 385 career games over six-plus seasons.Letang joins star centers Sidney Crosby (12 years, $104.4 million) and Evgeni Malkin (eight years, $76 million) as players the Penguins have given long-term contracts to in the past 13 months.
Under the collective bargaining agreement, Letang cannot sign till Friday. The pact — the longest allowable by terms of the new collective bargaining agreement — will run through the 2021-22 season, when the 6-foot, 201-pound native of Montreal will be 35.
Beginning in 2014-15, the Penguins are committing $25.45 of salary-cap space to just three players for every season until 2021-22. For the 2014-15 season alone — counting contracts given wingers James Neal and Chris Kunitz, defenseman Paul Martin and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury — the organization already has $44.3 million of cap space accounted for just seven players.
The salary cap for the 2013-14 season is projected at $63.4 million, although it is expected to increase dramatically the following year.
The swift and skilled Letang is one of the NHL’s top offensive defensemen. But at times, the former third-round pick has been criticized for play in the defensive end — most recently during a stunning sweep of the Penguins by the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference finals. Letang had no points in the series and was a minus-5 over the first two games alone.
During Pittsburgh’s run to the Stanley Cup in 2009, Letang had 13 points, tying for the postseason lead among defensemen with four goals.
Over the past three seasons, Letang leads all NHL defensemen in assists (107). His 0.77 points-per-game average over that span ranks second to Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson for players at that position.
Since the end of the regular season, general manager Ray Shero has said extending Letang was a priority. Before the Penguins were swept by Boston, they defeated the Islanders and Senators in the first and second rounds, respectively.
Though he and agent Kent Hughes talked for a while, Shero could have traded Letang during the NHL Draft Sunday. A similar scenario played out last summer, when center Jordan Staal rejected a 10-year contract offer and Shero dealt him to the Carolina Hurricanes in a trade announced from the podium.
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