Rejuvenated Lecavalier joins LA Kings to chase Stanley Cup
LOS ANGELES (AP) Vincent Lecavalier has officially joined the Los Angeles Kings for the final months of his remarkable NHL career.
Now all he needs is the Hollywood ending.
Lecavalier met his new teammates Thursday after a cross-country flight to join the Kings, who acquired the veteran center along with defenseman Luke Schenn in a trade with Philadelphia. Lecavalier and Schenn then suited up for Los Angeles' home game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
''I still have confidence in my game and what I can bring,'' said Lecavalier, who has 411 career NHL goals. ''The most important thing is winning in this organization. It's not a guy or two guys. It's everybody. That's what's exciting about it.''
Lecavalier, who has 411 career goals, started out on a line with Jordan Nolan and Michael Mersch, two young forwards with a combined 17 goals. Schenn was paired with Christian Ehrhoff on the Kings' blue line.
After playing in just seven games for the Flyers this season, the 35-year-old Lecavalier is rested and eager to resume his chase for a second - and final - Stanley Cup. Lecavalier confirmed he plans to retire this summer but only after playing a role in the Pacific Division-leading Kings' chase for a third NHL title in five years.
''It's something that I was planning on doing, and it's something I'm going to do,'' Lecavalier said of retirement. ''I'm happy to be part of a team where I get a chance to play a certain role. I'm really excited about that. To get a chance to win another Stanley Cup would be great. The best season of my career was when I won in 2004.''
Lecavalier spent 14 seasons with Tampa Bay and established himself as one of the most prolific scorers of his generation, but he hasn't contributed much to those totals since leaving the Lightning after the 2013 campaign. He has been a healthy scratch for much of the past two seasons with the struggling Flyers, an embarrassing predicament for a former No. 1 overall pick who scored 20 goals in 13 of his first 15 NHL seasons.
''I haven't played in a while, but I've been practicing hard,'' Lecavalier said. ''I try to be as ready as possible for that first game. Obviously, short shifts (are) the key, but I'm ready to go.''
Lecavalier won the Richard Trophy in 2007 with an NHL-best 52 goals, but he scored just 28 goals in 133 games over 2 1/2 seasons with the Flyers. He acknowledged frustration but no bitterness about Philadelphia, which he chose as a free agent so he could play for coach Peter Laviolette - who got fired three games into Lecavalier's tenure.
''He got let go, and the mentality kind of changed, and I wasn't really part of their plans after that,'' Lecavalier said. ''Very frustrating, but I'm happy I'm here now.''
Lecavalier hasn't played in a game since Nov. 12, a confounding dilemma for a healthy four-time All-Star and former Canadian Olympian. He has been considering retirement for months, and his willingness to erase the final two years on his contract with retirement allowed the Kings to acquire him without cramping their salary cap space next year.
Lecavalier is expected to center the third or fourth line behind star centers Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter for the Kings, whose style of responsible two-way play has been wildly successful this year. Even after a team-record 25 victories in its first 39 games, Los Angeles could still use more consistent scoring from its depth lines.
Schenn also could play a significant role for the Kings in his final season before free agency. The defenseman won't be surprised if both former Flyers have a great time in the West Coast sun.
''He's handled it better than anyone possibly could,'' Schenn said of Lecavalier's attitude toward his prolonged benching.
''He's come to work every day in practice,'' Schenn added. ''He's the first one to do extra work in drills with the scratches and the hurt guys. In a situation like that, it's probably pretty easy to walk around and not feel so good about yourself and probably bring your teammates down. He hasn't shown that at all. He's been nothing but a true professional.''