THN.com Blog: Habs hope for another rollback in Lecavalier chase

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The Hockey News

The Hockey News

During the Tampa Bay-San Jose game Tuesday night, the analysts were incredulous that the Lightning would even consider trading Vincent Lecavalier to the Montreal Canadiens for the package that is currently making the rumor mill – forwards Tomas Plekanec and Chris Higgins, defenseman Josh Gorges, defense prospect P.K. Subban and multiple first-round picks.

Their point was that the Lightning shouldn’t even think about trading Lecavalier unless they get either goalie Carey Price or defenseman Andrei Markov in return.

Dream on, boys. The first thing Tampa Bay will have to come to grips with is the fact there’s absolutely no way it will get equal value back if it trades Lecavalier. But what it will get – and this is a concept people are still having trouble getting their heads around in the salary cap world – is an enormous amount of cap relief.

Many people still have a hard time with the notion that salary cap space is a valuable commodity in today’s NHL and by trading Lecavalier, the Lightning would get it in the form of $7.73 million for each of the next 11 seasons starting in 2009-10. That’s why it wouldn’t be a surprise to this corner if even fewer NHL bodies were sent to the Lightning and more prospects and picks were involved.

In fact, both Higgins and Plekanec are restricted free agents after this season and will have to be signed, while Gorges represents a $1.1 million cap hit for the next two seasons after this one.

Even for a superstar, Lecavalier has something of an oppressive contract in a time when nobody knows for sure where the league’s finances will be four or five years from now. Almost everyone in hockey believes the salary cap will be reduced after next season, which will make Lecavalier’s hit even more dramatic.

One GM thinks that’s probably what will ultimately prevent the Lightning from trading Lecavalier. As it is, the Canadiens will have to do some roster stickhandling just to fit him under the cap this season, since they are already up against the ceiling. Lecavalier’s hit is $6.875 million this season, while Plekanec, Higgins and Gorges combine for $4.4 million.

The GM does think there’s one way trading for Lecavalier could work and reckons the Canadiens are counting on a dramatic decrease in salaries in the next collective bargaining agreement. Assuming the NHL Players’ Association opts to keep the current deal alive until 2012, that would give the Canadiens three years of Lecavalier at $7.73 million.

“The only thing I can think is that the Canadiens are counting on another rollback in the next CBA,” the GM said. “The union sold out their members once and maybe they’ll do it again. That’s the only way the numbers make sense.”

Ken Campbell is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesday and Fridays and his column, Campbell's Cuts, appears Mondays.

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