Lecavalier highlights Flyers free agency frenzy

Tampa Bay Lightning v Washington Capitals
Vinny Lecavalier was the Flyers’ top prize last weekend as NHL free agency began.Let the record show that Ray Emery’s first stint with the Flyers resulted in the 2010 Stanley Cup Final. Let the record also show that he didn’t have much to do with it since Emery missed the second half of the season with a hip injury that threatened his career.

Let the record show that Ray Emery’s first stint with the Flyers resulted in the 2010 Stanley Cup Final. Let the record also show that he didn’t have much to do with it since Emery missed the second half of the season with a hip injury that threatened his career.

Let the record show that Ray Emery’s first stint with the Flyers resulted in the 2010 Stanley Cup Final. Let the record also show that he didn’t have much to do with it since Emery missed the second half of the season with a hip injury that threatened his career.

Now he’s back, fresh off watching the Blackhawks win another Stanley Cup from the bench. Emery is the latest in a long line of “Frequent Flyers” that last year included Simon Gagne, Mike Knuble, Ruslan Fedotenko and Brian Boucher. Emery is expected to share goaltending duties with Steve Mason, as part of what GM Paul Holmgren hopes will be a Flyers resurgence after missing the playoffs entirely during the lockout-shortened season.

And the new look in goal — now that Ilya Bryzgalov has been bought out — is hardly the only change you’ll see for the Orange and Black. The team unexpectedly signed Vinny Lecavalier to a five-year, $22.5 million deal. With apologies to the departed Danny Briere, Lecavalier, even at age 33, should provide more firepower and versatility.

“After I talked with Philly, even before any offers or anything, they went right to the top of the list,” said Lecavalier who was bought out after a 14-year career in Tampa that included 383 goals and the 2004 Stanley Cup. “I just liked what they were saying. When you get bought out it’s definitely motivation. I guess I want to prove the Flyers right, not the Lightning wrong.”

Mark Streit, a 35-year-old Swiss puck-handling defenseman also signed a multiyear (four years, $21 million) contract. He gives the Flyers six veteran defensemen making at least $3.5 million (Kimmo Timonen, Braydon Coburn, Andres Meszaros, Niklas Grossmann, Luke Schenn) to go with youngsters Erik Gustafsson, Oliver Lauridsen and Marc-Andre Bourdon. That may seem like a lot, but last year’s slew of injuries showed how critical such depth is.

On the other hand, all these high-priced moves leave the Flyers at the NHL’s $64.3 million salary cap limit, giving them little flexibility unless they can unload one of those contracts. They’ll get some relief when Chris Pronger’s $4.9 million comes off the books, but Holmgren will still need to be creative.

“I think we improved our team a lot,” said Holmgren, who indicated before the start of this week’s annual Development Camp that Emery and Mason will battle it out in training camp to see who emerges as No. 1 goalie. “We added a very good puck-moving defenseman that’s going to bring us more offense from the back end. We added, in my opinion, still one of the better players in the game in Vinny Lecavalier. And adding Ray to bring in along with Steve Mason, I think solidifies our goaltending position. More importantly, we kept what we think is a real good nucleus together.”

Chief among them is captain Claude Giroux, who inked an eight-year, $66.2 extension. The key is to blend them with Lecavalier and last year’s top player Jake Voracek, along with disappointing Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn and Matt Read. If it all clicks as planned, and the goalies can be more consistent stopping the puck, then next season could be fun.

“Last year was a tough season, but we’re going to learn from it,” said Giroux, who might wind up linemates with Lecavalier if Peter Laviolette decides to shift Scott Hartnell. “We’re a young team and we’ve got new players on the team. I think everybody is pretty excited about the team, and they should be.”

On a hot day in July, at least for now, everything for the Flyers looks pretty cool.


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