Vinny Lecavalier could have gone to any one of about 15 cities in the NHL.
He chose Philadelphia.
There may have been more money available elsewhere. There may have been teams, with which he had been linked in past rumors, but in the end, there was one team that he wanted to play for more than any other.
“Let’s just say Philly, with the meeting I had with them, that’s the place I really wanted to go,” Lecavalier said. “I started off with, I don’t want to say a pretty big list, but a list of about 10 teams, and right after I talked with Philly even before any offers or anything, they went right to the top of the list. I just liked what they were saying, and looking at their lineup and everything…
“[It was a] combination of things, but I liked [coach Peter Laviolette’s] point of view on the game. I just like their style of play. They play hard, they play well defensively, but offense is also something they can bring that’s very solid, so I thought I'd fit well in that mold.”
Lecavalier will most likely play as the second line center, but will provide enough flexibility to play on the top line with Claude Giroux from time to time – much in the same way Pittsburgh combines Sidney Crosby with Evgeni Malkin when they really need to make an offensive push.
Lecavalier said if that were the case, he wouldn’t mind hopping on the right wing with Giroux – even though it’s a position he’s never played.
“I’d be very comfortable,” Lecavalier said. “That’s something I’ve mentioned. I guess they asked me in the meeting if I could play wing, and I said, ‘Certainly.’ I’m a lot more comfortable on the right wing, on my off-wing, than on the left side. Right wing for me would be very, very comfortable. Going in on the right side is something that I've always felt comfortable with, so right wing would be really good for me.”
Regardless, adding a player of Lecavalier’s caliber will instantly upgrade an offense that suffered through some true Jekkyl and Hyde moments last season.
Lecavalier is looking forward to playing the offensive style employed by Laviolette. It’s certainly a complete change from the slow-down tactics and stifling trapping that was employed by the Lightning in recent seasons.
"I like that better than staying on your heels,” he said. “I think when you’re on your heels a lot more, you’re not in the game as much, you're not as sharp, as quick. If you're on your toes like the Flyers play, I think it makes you a better hockey player. You're always on the go, you're aggressive in the offensive zone.
“Obviously you've got to play well defensively, but once you're out of that zone, you're skating and you have to skate. So it makes you skate harder and I think it makes you quicker for those 18-20 minutes.”
And the Flyers are thrilled to be able to add a player of his ilk to the mix.
“The signing was a big surprise,” said Scott Hartnell. “We lost two great guys and two good teammates in [Danny] Briere and [Ilya] Bryzgalov. But, obviously, it is very exciting to get Vincent Lecavalier.
“He is a proven winner. He is a great leader from everything that you hear and a great team guy. I’m looking forward to having him up the middle and that makes our top four centermen one of the best in the league, for sure.”
Laviolette also weighed in on the signing, and considering he’s the man in charge with figuring out how best to use Lecavalier, the fact that he’s thrilled to have him as well should bode well for the Flyers.
“I think it is a very good signing for our club,” Laviolette said. “Vinny brings so many things to our team. I really think his experience and his leadership with our young group of forwards and the young players we have will be beneficial to our team’s success. To get a player like Vinny in our lineup and in our organization is a real positive.
“He has been an elite player in the NHL since he got here, 13 – 14 years ago. He has proven that he can play all different positions and all different spots, power play, penalty kill. He is going to be used in a position as one of our top forwards. I think he brings a lot of benefits to our offensive group as well as our power play and leadership. We will sort all of this out in training camp, but to bring an elite forward like this in to the mix is a welcome addition.”
Lecavalier will also bring his noted leadership qualities with him to the Flyers. A captain with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Lecavalier said he won’t be gun shy about being a vocal leader right from the beginning.
“Yeah, definitely, I’ll try to bring that in the room,” Lecavalier said. “It’s Claude Giroux’s team, and I think he's a great leader. I don't know him that well, but from what I hear, guys just love him and how hard he plays and what he brings to the table. But I'm going to try to bring my experience and what I've been through. I’ve been through some tough years and I’ve been through some really great years.
“So, I'll bring that in the room, and definitely at my age, older players we have to bring that leadership. It's not just having one leader - you need a lot of good leaders to make sure that team goes in the right direction, and I’m going to try to do that.”
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