Photo Credit: Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports
We’ve been double crossed! While the hockey world fixated their eyes on Columbus and Nashville, hoping to see the league’s first big trade of the season, the Los Angeles Kings and Philadelphia Flyers hit us for a left hook, making a three-player trade full of technicalities and confusion.
The Flyers are sending forward Vincent Lecavalier and defenceman Luke Schenn to the Kings, who in exchange will send back Jordan Weal and a third round draft pick in 2016.
On the surface, this trade seems, well, impossible. The Kings, after all, took in $8.1 million in cap hit from Philadelphia while sending $632,500 back, which, given their present situation, makes no sense.
With that said, there’s a lot more to it. The Flyers will be retaining half of both Lecavalier’s and Schenn’s contracts, bringing their hits down to $2.25 million (Lecavalier) and $1.8 million (Schenn) respectively. To add to this, the league is now 92 days into its 187-day regular season, meaning that player salaries have been approximately 49% paid already. This brings makes Los Angeles’ estimated cap absorbance to about $1.68 million for the remainder of the year.
Vincent Lecavalier will play for the #kings for the rest of the season and intend to retire at the end of it. Last season in the NHL.
— Renaud Lavoie (@renlavoietva) January 6, 2016
The next two years are the real question mark, though. Lecavalier appears to be happy with this year being his exit; but what if he bounces back? After all, we are talking about a player who scored 32 points in 39 games three seasons ago and is two years removed from potting 20 goals in 69 games. Lecavalier’s body is worn down more than most 35-year-old former stars, but he’s still eight years younger than Jaromir Jagr. There’s lots of time for him to change their mind, especially if the Kings continue their tradition of winning Stanley Cups on the backs of ex-Flyers. With that said, such a change of heart would likely require him to play well enough to more than justify the $2.25 million the Kings would be paying him.
Retirement would be a good luck for both teams, ultimately. Because Lecavalier signed the contract before he turned 35, there would be no post-retirement lingering salary for either team and certainly no recapture for the Flyers. It must be nice to be in a position where you can walk away from $6 million, but seeing as Lecavalier will be collecting buyout cheques from Tampa Bay for years to come, he probably figures he’s playing with free money right now.
Of course, there are two other players involved in this deal. Luke Schenn, also a former high draft pick as 2008’s fifth selection, never found the stride that both the Flyers and Toronto Maple Leafs envisioned for him. This likely comes from him being drafted as a “dominant and young” defensive defenceman, which modern scouting divisions are starting to recognize as a trait to be wary of. Schenn wasn’t ever able to develop offensive skill that he didn’t have against his fellow teenagers, and once he started playing against adults, his menace didn’t stand out as much. Even when placed in favourable zone situations, Schenn has continuously been a negative team-relative possession player; perhaps the Kings believe there’s a systematic way to change that, though. If it doesn’t work out, Schenn becomes a UFA in July.
Despite this looking like a cap dump trade, Weal could be a serviceable asset for the Flyers moving forward. Weal was a star playmaker on the Manchester Monarchs in each of the last two seasons, putting up 73 points in 80 regular season and playoff games in 2013/14 and 91 points in 92 regular season and playoff games last year. However, Weal has yet to pick up his first NHL point in ten games with the Kings, and sending him back down to Manchester would have been a waiver risk for Los Angeles. Philadelphia can give him a look in a more offensively-driven role before making a judgment call.
In short, the two teams are taking short-term risks on players who just weren’t working out for either side, and if it fails to work out for any of them, we’ll see some combination of waivers, free agency, and retirement in the coming months. The Flyers probably win out this trade for making a move that doesn’t limit the team’s options when the deadline rolls around (minus being out of salary retentions) and picking up a draft pick, but knowing the Kings, we’re about to see Luke Schenn win the Conn Smythe after a 16-0 run.