What Should Philadelphia Flyers Expect from Vincent Lecavalier in 2013-14?

Nicholas Goss@@NicholasGoss35Correspondent ISeptember 4, 2013

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 23:  Vincent Lecavalier #4 of the Tampa Bay Lightning looks on during a break in the action against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center on December 23, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. The Avalanche defeated the Lightning 2-1 in overtime.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The Philadelphia Flyers are no strangers to making bold moves in free agency.

The offseason signing of 33-year-old center Vincent Lecavalier, which cost the franchise $22.5 million over five years, was a risk for a club that is currently $2,053,522 over the salary cap of $64.3 million, per CapGeek.

But for a team that lacked size down the middle and leadership last season, the addition of a former Stanley Cup champion and top-six forward of Lecavalier's caliber will help Philadelphia return to the playoffs in 2013-14.

For starters, Lecavalier is going to provide valuable versatility and scoring depth to a Flyers offense that ranked ninth in goals scored last season.

In the last four years with the Lightning, Lecavalier tallied an average of 51.25 points (0.82/game). The veteran forward will be able to excel in a first or second-line center role, or as a right winger to give superstar center Claude Giroux the power forward with a high level of offensive skill that he's never played with on the Flyers' top line.

If he receives 17-20 minutes of ice time per game, Lecavalier should tally 55-70 points for the Flyers next season if he continues to play in about 80 percent of his team's games.

His impressive size (6'4" and 215 pounds) and strength also allows him to create a net-front presence to screen the goaltender and score dirty goals off of rebounds.

Per BehindTheNet.ca, the former Lightning captain started 51.9 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone last year, a number that should increase in Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette's uptempo, run-and-gun style of hockey that caters to highly skilled forwards with size such as Lecavalier.

The team's power play, which was already potent as the third-best unit in the league in 2013, will be even stronger with Lecavalier in the fold. The Quebec native could run the point when the Flyers have the man advantage with his powerful shot from the blue line and impressive puck-handling skills.

The final qualities that Philly will expect from Lecavalier are strong leadership and Stanley Cup-winning experience. This team has a young captain in Giroux, and adding a veteran with six years of experience wearing the "C" will only help the young superstar grow into his role as the team's leader.

Lecavalier knows what it takes to win important playoff games from his time with the Lightning, which includes winning the 2004 Stanley Cup. He was a key contributor during that championship run, and with 52 points in 63 career postseason games, the 33-year-old can be relied on to provide consistent scoring if the Flyers get back to the playoffs.

The biggest concern with Lecavalier is his durability.

He's missed a combined 44 games over the past three seasons and his skating, speed and agility aren't close to what they were during his prime. There's no question that injuries have slowed him down in recent seasons.

With that said, Lecavalier will prove to be a fantastic addition if he's able to stay healthy consistently.

He brings a valuable amount of experience, leadership, offensive skill, size and versatility to a group of forwards that was decimated by injuries to key players in 2013.

The Flyers didn't make any major, long-term free agent signings this summer, instead opting to sign veterans who will fill a specific role that was a weakness last year.

As a player who will address many of those weaknesses, Lecavalier should be one of the Flyers' most valuable players in 2013-14.


Nicholas Goss is an NHL columnist at Bleacher Report. He was a credentialed writer at the 2011 and 2013 Stanley Cup Final, the 2012 NHL playoffs and the 2013 NHL draft.