If the Capitals add center depth, it won’t be with Vincent Lecavalier.
The veteran pivot and most sought-after free agent on the market agreed to a five-year, $22.5 million deal with the Philadelphia Flyers. The deal won’t be official until Friday when the free-agent signing period opens.
More than a dozen teams reportedly had interest in Lecavalier, who was bought out by the Tampa Bay Lightning last week, and the Capitals were among those that met with him in New York last weekend.
Coach Adam Oates, who worked with the center during his time as an assistant coach in Tampa Bay, met with Lecavalier Saturday and thought the Quebec native would be a good fit in Washington. But the terms Lecavalier, 33, sought seemed an unlikely match for the Capitals.
During the salary-cap era, General Manager George McPhee has seldom signed players in their 30s to a contract longer than two years. It’s happened only three times with Joel Ward (2011), Michael Nylander (2007) and Tom Poti (2007).
Lecavalier’s lengthy injury history and decreased mobility in recent years were enough of a risk to give teams pause before handing out a five-year contract. (According to The Detroit Free Press, the Red Wings weren’t willing to go beyond a two-year deal.)
So where will the Capitals go from here? Mike Ribeiro, who is seeking a four- or five-year deal, will hit the free agent market when it opens at noon Friday. Stephen Weiss, Danny Briere, Tyler Bozak and Derek Roy are the highlights among the rest of the free agent centers.
With high demand for centers and McPhee’s preference to avoid bidding wars for unrestricted free agents, the Capitals could decide to stand pat with the forwards they have.
If Washington doesn’t bring in any free agents, Brooks Laich is the most likely candidate to fill the second-line center spot. Laich is expected to be healthy after missing all but nine games last season with a lingering groin injury and while he doesn’t have Ribeiro’s offensive upside he’s a more defensively sound player. But will a depth chart down the middle of Nicklas Backstrom, Laich, Mathieu Perreault and Jay Beagle be enough to help the Capitals contend in their new realigned division?
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