A pair of Stanley Cup contenders bolstered their rosters with veteran acquisitions on Wednesday.
The Los Angeles Kings fired the opening salvo by adding forward Vincent Lecavalier and defenseman Luke Schenn from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for minor-league center Jordan Weal and a third round pick.
GM Dean Lombardi has been looking for a heavy, stay-at-home defender to replace Matt Greene, who was placed on long-term injured reserve last month, and Schenn may fit the bill. The former first rounder was a huge flop in Philly after being acquired in the deal that sent James van Riemsdyk to Toronto, but he brings the size and nastiness that makes him a natural fit for the heavy game of the Kings. He could find his form under the strict structure of coach Darryl Sutter.
That same structure might also benefit Lecavalier, a 35-year-old veteran who has struggled to make his way out of the press box with his game in decline. His big-bodied presence hews more closely to Sutter’s style than first-year Philly coach Dave Hakstol’s, and in a clearly defined role he might be able to bring a limited dose of the physicality that made him so effective during his heyday with the Lightning.
Interestingly, it is being reported that Lecavalier intends to retire after this season. If he can't find his groove with the Kings, that makes sense. But if things go well, he could choose to delay those plans.
While lopsided at first glance, the Flyers got exactly what they needed out of this swap: salary cap space. Even if they retained 50% of both players' salaries, as reported by Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman, that still saves them some serious coin.
Schenn counts $3.6 million against the cap on a deal that expires after this season, so that saves a pro-rated $1.8 million. The real win is moving Lecavalier’s contract, which counted $4.5 million per year through 2017- 2018, so the Flyers will save money this year along with $2.25 million each of the next two years—if he continues playing. For a team that has been hard up against the cap, and getting a lousy return on its investment, that’s a big win even if Weal, who has just 10 games of NHL experience, doesn't become a player for them.
Shortly after that deal was consummated, it was announced that free-agent center Mike Richards had signed with the Washington Capitals. His pro-rated deal is for one year at $1 million.
This is a low-risk gamble for the Caps, who have their sights squarely set on winning the first Stanley Cup in franchise history. The question is: What’s the payoff? Richards can provide depth at center, an area of concern with the recent injury to Jay Beagle, but what exactly does he bring to the table? He won’t score much—he produced just five goals in 53 games last season with the Kings—and his mobility has declined to the point that he became a defensive liability for Los Angeles, his possession numbers ranking 11th among the team’s forwards.
There is always a chance that a change of scenery will give Richards a lift. Or maybe the gratitude for another opportunity that was a long time in coming after his off-season arrest for drug possession at the Canadian border led to his contract with the Kings being torn up.
But its more likely that his limits then will continue to be his limits now. And that’s OK. He’s an insurance chip, someone who can fill in on a depth line when needed, and bring some leadership and experience from winning a pair of Cups with the Kings.
And if all goes well, that’s a chip the Caps won’t cash in too often.