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2013 NHL Free Agency: The Dallas Stars & the Vincent Lecavalier Contract Possibilities

How much money is Vincent Lecavalier about to accept on his new contract?

What isn't to like?
What isn't to like?

Vincent Lecavalier is a rich man thanks to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning chose to use an amnesty buyout to rid themselves of his cap hit which was north of seven million dollars per season. They still owe Lecavalier 32 million dollars, but it won't count against the cap.

It must be nice to hit the free agent market with that in your back pocket. Lecavalier has acknowledged that luxury allows him more leeway in picking the right spot for him to continue his career. Considering the overwhelming interest that has been out there for his services, Lecavalier can expect to play under a more than respectable salary during the upcoming season on top of the buyout money he will receive.

What is a reasonable expectation for his upcoming contract, and at what point should the Dallas Stars bow out to pursue other options?

We need to establish what Lecavalier is at this point before we can answer that question. Basically I sorted the entire forward group in the NHL and tried to identify a range of players very close in offensive zone start percentage, quality of competition, and even strength goals + primary assists. I then removed players still on entry level contracts. Sorry Cam Atkinson.

The comparables:

JORDAN EBERLE C EDM 0.23 51.1 2.06
DAVID KREJCI C BOS 0.36 52.1 1.91
EVANDER KANE C WPG 0.35 53.9 1.82
PATRIK ELIAS LW N.J 0.27 52.3 1.54
MARTIN HAVLAT RW S.J 0.53 53.3 1.52
JOE THORNTON C S.J 0.52 51.5 1.52

The list has a few problems, The main one is that half of the list is really young. Eberle, Krejci, and Kane are potentially going to throw this estimation off by a little bit, but given that all signed second contracts already they should work to get an idea for what Lecavalier can reasonably expect.

The average contract for those six guys is roughly five years and 30 million dollars, or about six million per year. There are a few factors to consider before just saying "Lecavalier is about to get 30 million more dollars". First of all, how many teams are willing to offer a package like that for a player who was recently bought out? The interest has been there since his buyout was announced, but six million per year for a player who was just bought out of a deal where he earned seven doesn't pass the smell test.

Another factor to consider is overall production. Lecavalier's overall production has slipped. The last time he was an elite offensive player was in the 2008 season. Since then he has been more of a good 70 point scorer. Interestingly, the past two years he has been on a near 70 point pace despite a big slip in powerplay production under Guy Boucher. The Lightning, reasonably, began to lean more and more on Steven Stamkos to the point that Lecavalier was 5th in PP TOI/60 last year. Could he regain some of that production if he is more of a powerplay focus with a new team?

Age has to be considered here too. Lecavalier is going to turn 34 near the end of next season. Does he warrant a five year deal right now? The production is bound to take a real nose dive at some point in the next five years. Does any team want to get caught holding the bag when his inevitable decline hits? Length of the deal is going to end up being the sticking point.

Reports are suggesting that Lecavalier is seeking a five to six year deal. Presumably he will be looking for a no movement clause too. That's a tough situation to be in if you're a team looking for an immediate boost. He could end up being worth five to six million per year on a three year deal, but it becomes a very risky contract if you extend it out to four or five.

The most reasonable estimate of what Lecavalier will get is in the ballpark of four years and 22.5 million. Given the way free agency usually ends up working five years and 25 wouldn't be completely out of whack, but it does get a little uncomfortable. If the Stars are going to end up with Lecavalier they will likely have to go a little out of the normal comfort zone, but there is little doubt that he would improve this roster. That's the name of the game, and over the next 48 hours we're likely to find out if he is going to take the Stars money or not.