Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - There is absolutely nothing wrong with
signing Vincent Lecavalier to a five-year, $22.5 million contract. In fact,
the reported deal the former Tampa Bay Lightning star signed with the
Philadelphia Flyers could be accurately described as cap friendly.
Still, considering this is the Flyers we are talking about, it is completely
fair for the rest of the NHL to shake their heads and chuckle at Philadelphia
for once again spending first and asking questions later.
Philadelphia already used both of its compliance buyouts last week, wiping
away the sizeable cap hits of goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov and forward Danny
Briere. However, before using those buyouts, the Flyers had already signed 35-
year-old defenseman Mark Streit to a four-year, $21 million deal, a contract
that wasn't made official until Philly parted ways with Bryzgalov and Briere.
Now, with the 33-year-old Lecavalier joining the fray thanks to another multi-
year deal, it's obvious the Flyers weren't using their buyouts to get their
fiscal house in order. With owner Ed Snider and his deep pockets ready to sign
any check that comes across his desk, Philadelphia sees no need to play it
safe. The club somehow still believes it is one high-profile signing away from
ending its lengthy Stanley Cup drought, no matter how far-fetched those dreams
actually are at the moment.
Although he comes with a palatable cap hit of $4.5 million a season and fills
a need at center for the Flyers, Lecavalier does not come close to making
Philadelphia, which failed to qualify for the postseason in 2013, a
legitimate Cup contender next season. Streit also adds a power-play
quarterback to a team that didn't have a suitable option in that role, but,
like Lecavalier, he will be closing in on 40 years of age by the time this deal
Oh yes, both guys have battled injuries in recent years and it's unlikely
those issues will go away as they head into the twilight of their hockey
More and more it seems like Philadelphia's surprising run to the Stanley Cup
Finals in 2010 has warped Snider and general manager Paul Holmgren's
perception of how close the club is to landing that elusive third
championship. After bowing out in the second round to Boston in the spring of
2011, the front office panicked and traded away former franchise cornerstones
Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, who, of course, went on to win it all as
teammates for Los Angeles in 2012.
An injection of youth in 2011-12 re-energized the Flyers, but Snider and
Holmgren have shown little interest in building a winner through the draft.
After all, that's a slow process which often doesn't work out and can wind up
alienating the fan base.
In fact, the recent signings of Lecavalier and Streit could end up derailing
any attempt at a serious rebuilding project. In light of this summer's spending
spree, young pieces like Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier or Matt Read could be
made expendable when it's time for their potentially big paydays.
In a potential nightmarish scenario, the lack of restraint could prevent the
Flyers from committing to star center and captain Claude Giroux over the long
term, but that's unlikely. The club will find a way to make Giroux fit into
its future plans, even if it means losing every single one of the youngsters
The flip side to rebuilding slowly, however, is pacifying the rabid masses
with high-priced options like Lecavalier and Streit. Those free-agent signings
may not make a significant difference in the standings in 2013-14, but they'll
generate excitement in the summer months. Maybe that's what the Flyers are
really after, staying relevant and having people talk about them.
Of course, the Flyers are never done spending and trading, so maybe there is a
larger plan in place here. One would hope the big picture saves room for
another goaltender because there are many questions about Steve Mason -- No. 1
on Philly's depth chart after the buyout of Bryzgalov -- and his ability to be
a go-to guy in the crease.
Even if they add a better option in net, it feels like the Flyers are trying
to use free agency as a short-cut to success, and that's not a formula that
works very often in the NHL.
Philadelphia has shown it can scout and draft players who can help on offense,
but identifying talent on the blue line and in goal has proven much more
difficult. As a result, the Flyers often have been forced to pay a premium to
acquire defensemen and goaltenders on the open market.
That trend should make the Flyers wary about spending so freely on offensive-
minded players who are on the downside of their careers, but that obviously
wasn't the case with Lecavalier or Streit.
There will be plenty of people in Philadelphia who have faith in the Flyers
being on the right track, but those folks can't be paying attention to the
recent history of this franchise.
The Sports Network