St. Louis Blues Offseason Preview: A Case for Vinny Lecavalier


Apr 9, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning center

Vincent Lecavalier

(4) skates with the puck as Ottawa Senators center

Peter Regin

(13) defends during the first period at Tampa Bay Times Forum. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, Steve Yzerman, vice president and general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning, announced that the Bolts would buy out the remainder of Vinny Lecavalier’s contract.

Lecavalier, 33, had spent his entire career with the Lightning after being drafted first overall in 1998. That is, until yesterday.

Lecavalier now becomes an unrestricted free agent and is free to sign with whatever team he chooses. There will assuredly be a multitude of teams lining up in an attempt attain the center’s services. One would think the St. Louis Blues will be among them.

The Blues have an obvious deficiency up the middle on their roster. This has left many Blues fans to speculate that General Manager Doug Armstrong will try and acquire a center through a trade or free agency this offseason.

However, there is a legitimate question to be raised regarding the Blues financial situation and their ability to take on added salary as an organization. Already, the Blues payroll is set to increase substantially. Patrik Berglund, Kevin Shattenkirk, Adam Cracknell and Ian Cole have already been given new contracts this offseason, while Chris Stewart, Alex Pietrangelo, Jake Allen and Kris Russell are due raises as well. It also remains to be seen if the Blues will retain the services of defenseman Jordan Leopold.

Given this, it seems more likely that Armstrong will try and pursue improvement through a trade. The Blues have reasonable depth at goaltending, defense and on the wings to trade from if Armstrong wants to pursue an upgrade at center. A trade may be advantageous in a sense because Armstrong will be able to move salary to help offset whatever salary comes back, keeping the Blues cap situation manageable.

Yet, if Armstrong does not find a deal he likes, he may turn his attention to free agency.

There are a multitude of centers available this free agent season. However, only a few fit the bill as a top-line center the Blues so desperately crave.

Lecavalier is one of these few.

In his career, he has scored over 70 points five times, including surpassing the 90-point mark twice with a career high of 108 in the 2006-2007 season.

While Lecavalier is past the prime of his career, the talent is still there. In only 39 games this past season, he posted 32 points (10 goals, 22 assists) and was on pace for 67 points in a full 82-game season.

Unfortunately, there is an inherent risk in signing Lecavalier. Like fellow buy out victim Danny Briere, Lecavalier has recently developed a reputation as being injury-prone. In fact, the most games he has played in the past three seasons was 65 in 2010-2011. However, he was still on pace to eclipse the 60-point mark in every one of those campaigns. Additionally, in his last fully healthy season in 2009-2010, Lecavalier posted 70 points.

Therefore, if teams feel comfortable taking a risk with Lecavalier’s injury concerns, there is a definite reward to be had. In fact, a strong case can be made that he is now the jewel of this offseason’s free agent class.

Realistically, the Blues have a small chance at landing a fish as big as Lecavalier. However, that chance is greater than in year’s past.

With the cap lowering to $64.3 million this upcoming season, many teams that are normally active in free agency will be preoccupied with shedding salary rather than adding it in order to become cap-compliant. Still, you can expect that there will be several teams willing to give substantial money to the former Bolt.

Armstrong cannot afford to get into a bidding war for Lecavalier. In fact, he would probably have to move some salary in a trade just to offer a reasonable deal at all.

The only way Lecavalier will be wearing a Blue note this October is if Armstrong can convince the centerman that he is the missing piece to the puzzle for the Blues. If Lecavalier main preoccupation is winning a Stanley Cup, this may be a compelling argument. After all, he will still be receiving 2/3 of the $45 million he was due in the remainder of his contract with the Lightning.

However, one would think that everything would have to fall into place perfectly for the Blues to have a shot at Lecavalier.

Common sense says that the Blues will first look to improve their team through a trade. If nothing comes to fruition on that front, Armstrong will turn his attention to free agency. After that, it all comes down to finding the right man for the right price.

What do you think? Do the Blues have a shot at Lecavalier?

Let us know in the comments section below.