Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman’s decision to buy out longtime captain and Stanley Cup winner Vincent Lecavalier was a hard one for him to make. It was difficult from a financial standpoint as well as one for building their team.
The Lightning have no problems figuring out who plays on their top line. Steven Stamkos slots in at center and Martin St. Louis on the right wing. Cutting loose Lecavalier left a gaping hole at center on the second line. Enter free agent Valtteri Filppula.
The Lightning signed Filppula away from Detroit to the tune of five years and $25 million. You might be thinking he’s not as good as Lecavalier but over the past few seasons, and you might be right.
Going back to the 2010-11 season, Filppula has 48 goals and 74 assists in 193 games over three seasons. In that same span, Lecavalier has played in 168 games with 57 goals with 78 assists. Fewer games played due to injury but more offense overall.
When you add 2013 first-round pick Jonathan Drouin to the mix, you’re adding a guy who comes with tremendous offensive potential and someone who might slide onto either line. That means more points to go around. At least, that’s what coach Jon Cooper is hoping for.
Having to go through their first season without Lecavalier since 1997-98 is going to be hard for many fans in Tampa. If Filppula can’t pick up where Lecavalier left off and he goes on to thrive in Philadelphia, it won’t be the heat or the humidity making things uncomfortable in Florida.