Photo credit: Eliot J. Schechte

Ian and I don’t feel particularly strong about the idea of signing compliance-buyout victim Vincent Lecavalier to the Capitals, but some of you guys apparently do. RMNB is a community, not just a few dudes shouting their opinions at you, so we’re turning the site over to you to make the case why Tampa Bay’s veteran center should come to DC.

For the record, Tampa GM Stevie Y bought out Lecavalier’s $7.7M per year contract, which had 7 more years on it. Vinny is 33 years old, a captain, a former Cup-winner, and a reliable .5 goal per game scorer. Pierre LeBrun reported that Lecavalier met with representatives from the Capitals on Saturday.

Many of you tied your argument for Lecavalier to the assumption that Mike Ribeiro will not be back next season. Some made the point that re-signing Ribeiro is a priority as well, and while I strongly disagree with that, we’ll talk more about that later. For now, the site is yours.

Sam R., a season-ticket holder for 16 years, points out that Vinny’s buyout will see him paid $2.42M by Tampa each year, so his salary demands might be lower than you think.

If Caps give him 4-5 million, he is making 6- 7 million dollars a year. The Caps would spend equal or less money on Vinny then they would with Ribeiro. Vinny wants to be on a playoff team and have at least 2-3 year contract.

[. . .]

Think of Kuznetsov coming to the Caps. Lecavalier would be the perfect role model for him to become a center. When the Caps had Jason Arnott with his big size, he was always a threat and he was great for the caps. Look at Fedorov, his smarts and Fedorov just being himself with his hair flowing in the wind, being amazing. Lecavalier is a little bit of both of those players. Has size and his smart and he still has skills left.

It’s a minor point, and we’ll have more on this later, but Kuznetsov’s face-off chops might be a problem if he were to take over the second line center position.

Chris J. finds multiple dimensions of familiarity that might make Vinny a good fit in DC:

He’s a younger Jagr– capable of playmaking well into his 40’s. Oates is familiar with him [Ed. note –  reader Timothy S. also pointed out that Oates coached Lecavalier in Tampa], and there’s a mutual membrane there. (i.e. Vinny’s a smart player, and Oates would squeeze every bit of what’s left in his tank). Also, he would make up for the loss of Semin as a scoring forward, which could have helped the Caps a lot against the Rangers this past playoffs.

He’s won the cup before and I’m sure he’s got a lot to prove to himself and to whoever’s smart enough to realize he’s a difference-maker who just needs a change of scenery.

The style-of-play argument makes a lot of sense to me, but I’m always a bit wary of the “Cup winners attract more Cups” argument.

MacDowell J., who has an awesome name, echoes some points from above, but adds Vinny’s reputation for leadership, while also assuming Ribeiro is on his way out:

I love Ribs and want him to play for us, but he’s not a leader and when it comes to getting past the first round in the playoffs. It’s good to have a former captain who won a cup to calm down the younger guys. Signing him now for 2 years would be great, we have one year with him to show his skills. Once Kuzy appears, he will need a solid leader to keep him calm and focused. Ovi is still a great captain, but sometimes its better if a player who isn’t a captain helps lead the younger guys: It’s harder for rookies to accept criticism from their captains, but easier if the one who does the criticizing is the captain. Vinny would be a great addition to our team.

MacDowell and Sam both imply the possibility that Lecavalier will accept a short term or reduced salary on his next contract, which may be a bit sanguine. We’ll see!

Amanda H. identifies the talent-gap at second-line center and how Lecavalier might help mitigate the organization’s weakness at the center position:

Take out Ribeiro and you have a pretty big gap in talent and ability between Backstrom and Perreault. The Capitals also have very little in terms of center prospects, honestly, I think they’re so unlikely to contribute on an NHL level I won’t even bother to list them. Barring the Capitals trading for another second line center (costly, unwise) they have to sign someone.

I would imagine [Lecavalier] isn’t going to be as worried about getting paid given the fact he’s already being paid to not play for a team. I have no clue how much he would be willing to sign for. While he isn’t/wasn’t worth his previous cap hit, I think he would be worth bringing in to center the second line. He’s better than Matty P and would bridge the talent gap between Backstrom and Perreault.

Overall, in my opinion, neither [Ribeiro nor Lecavalier] is a long-term solution. Ribeiro will more than likely get a longer than ideal contract (Which ideally I would like to avoid the Caps saddling themselves with a few years down the road) and Lacavalier isn’t old, but he’s declined.

A very good point. I don’t think enough has been made of McPhee’s mismanagement of the center position (though his goalie management has been positively Jedi-like), and Lecavalier would go a long ways towards plugging the hole for a few years.

Geoffrey R. finds Lecavalier to be superior to Ribeiro when it comes to the stats:

Lecavalier has been a much more productive player than Ribeiro – in 14 NHL seasons, Lecavalier has had 8 seasons of 60 or more points, compared to Ribeiro, who has played 13 NHL seasons with 5 seasons of 60 or more points. Lecavalier’s productivity is also higher than Ribeiro’s since the 2004-2005 lockout – Lecavalier has scored 547 points over that span, to Ribeiro’s 507.

Some may point to Ribeiro’s excellent work on the Capitals’ power play this past season, where he earned 27 power play points, including 21 power play assists, as a reason to re-sign him. But when you compare Lecavalier and Ribeiro’s average number of power play points since the ’04-’05 lockout, they have the exact same number, averaging 24.25 power play points per season.

Lecavalier is also a better face-off man, winning 54.4 percent of his draws last year, compared to Ribeiro’s 44.8 percent.

Geoffrey also made some points about Vinny as the superior playoff producer, though I’m hesitant to use those tiny little samples as indicators of how a player may perform in the future.

Terrence H. posited a complicated but fascinating scenario in which the Capitals should do the following:

  1. Buy out Schultz
  2. Trade Neuvirth
  3. Re-sign Alzner and Johansson

He projects that those moves would leave enough salary cap room to sign either Lecavalier for around $4.75 M … or Philadelphia’s Daniel Briere for $3.75M. I have what I will characterize as a sharp gut feeling that Briere will not don Caps red anytime soon. A few others, including Christopher T., offered similar scenarios that included buyouts and trades to free up trade space in order to acquire a veteran like Lecavalier or retain Ribeiro.

We received many more, but the few I quoted here seem to represent the basic idea. The overall thesis seems to be that Lecavalier could fill Washington’s deficit in leadership in general and second line center specifically and that his buyout status might make a cheaper signing more possible.

Lecavalier is certainly a talented player and a credit to whatever team he joins, but in a world with a constricting salary cap, I don’t think the Caps are the right fit. As far as I’m concerned, 2013-14 will be the year of the Great Matthieu Perreault 2C Experiment.

Thanks for writing in, everyone. Please feel free to let us know when we’re totally wrong about something or just not writing about something you care about.

Letters were mercilessly edited for length and clarity.

  • Shaun Phillips

    Only argument I had an issue with was comparing Ribs and Vinny’s years since the 04-05 lockout (sad that we have to clarify WHICH lockout). Vinny was playing with a much more offensive-minded club in TB than Ribs was in Dallas. Ribs never really had a offensive star in his prime to setup like he had this past year. Vinny’s had St Louis and Stamkos (the past few years). Can’t argue with the faceoff percentage though. Ribs is fairly awful.

  • snowape

    Rib’s entire upside is with the extra man… He’s not great on the dot, he’s not defensively sound and he’s a loud mouth that took alot of bad penalties… He’s not a big body, he’s not hard to play against and he’s easy to target for agitation… Did I mention he’s good on the powerplay? Ya see how I framed it positively?

    I think MP and MJ both learned a bunch from him on the PP this year, and the 1-3-1 pp would not have had the success, or continued success (this year) without RIbs… But I think if we have an opportunity to get a more complete player with leadership chops and a ring, you do it.

  • Matt Root

    Barring a Zeus like performance by OV and Holtby, a year with Matty P at 2C will likely be painful.

    I’ve bounced around all sorts of rumor mill sites and mojo and Carly come up. Speculation of Horton would be so unbelievably ideal. But who am I kidding.

  • I don’t think Perreault at 2C would be painful. In fact, I think he’s really turned himself into a player. His forechecking and vision is fantastic and he plays big despite his size. He was really a consistent player last year and avoided injury. I think it’s not a bad option now. Two seasons ago, yes it was.

    In regards to Hornton, Vogs says he’s too expensive for the team to afford.

  • Matt Root

    I agree he’s improved and I suppose ill even concede he has the potential to fill Ribs shoes. But me personally, I don’t see him as a legit 2C yet. Maybe I’m too pessimistic because until he’s given the chance at 2C we won’t know.

    Good catch on Vogs tweet, a drunken stupor and being on the west coast had me just waking up less than an hour ago and missed a lot of the twitter banter.

  • katzistan

    Here’s the thing – Lecavalier as Lecavalier would be great on the team, no question. But the problem is, you don’t get that. Vinny’s got recuring injury issues, meaning you most likely get about 60 games a season from him, and you hope he’s around for the playoffs. When he’s on the shelf, you’re back with MP85 as your 2nd line center…

  • David Rothman

    Perreault only played half the season as 2C a year ago, yet Perreault/Semin/Chimera were the Caps’ highest scoring trio in 2011-2012 at even strength. Oates sharpened his defensive game this year. I don’t know why everyone is pooping themselves over the possibility that he’ll be our 2C next year.

    That said: I’ll take Vinny in a heartbeat for under 4.5 million.

  • Jonathan Bloom

    I’m sorry but “a reliable .5 goal per game scorer? There is no way Vinny will put up 40 goals in an 82 game season, certainly not with a combination of wingers of Brouwer, Johannson, Erat, and Laich. Making the point that Lecavalier has had a better career than Ribeiro is true, but completely useless. Yes he’s had a better career, but Ribeiro was our best player for about half of the season. Stick with Ribs.

  • johnnymorte

    I’ll take Danny B over this guy in a heartbeat. Danny is a playoff beast and he has amazing PP skills. This is exactly what we need He might not have size, but he is one of the most creative centers in the game. He is due for a turnaround season, way too much skill. I would take Briere on the turnaround play.

  • Pat Magee

    Briere is a MONSTER in the playoffs, but Vinny has the size and skill to fit between Brouwer and Erat. As long as we sign SOMEBODY, ill prolly be happy.

  • Well, I’m not calling Perreault a 2C yet either. But I think he can play it for a year and his loyalty and hard work makes him deserving. He either becomes the guy or you give Kuznetsov or another free agent a try. I think Kuznetsov eventually settles into that spot. And before you say “how do we know he’s coming over?” he’s already committed to coming over and Traktor’s GM has confirmed as such.

  • Briere is a winner, despite that whole episode with Ovi where he speared him in the no no area. Vogs has already said the team isn’t going to sign him, so you guys gotta let that dream go. I’m not so sure he’d be a good fit here anyways. Our quota for tiny people is already filled.

  • Sean Hunt

    It would be fantastic to get Lecavalier but I don’t see it happening. Sure, he still has the buyout money coming regardless, but I think that’s a bit optimistic to think he would take a smaller contract just because of that. He has so many teams interested in him that he’s bound to get a better deal than we can offer him, and now we lose Ribeiro with zero in return and probably miss out on Vin. As far as trading Neuvirth, I don’t think he has much stock since we really put him in Holtby’s shadow. We could take note from the Canucks, bringing up Schneider and really hyping him up to get some attention and interest to butter him up for a trade, although a first-round pick isn’t really what we need

  • Matt Root

    I leaped for joy on that Kuzy news. I’d say you have no idea, but I’m sure you did the same, Ian haha.