TSN's Bob McKenzie is now reporting that the Canadiens have already proposed a trade package to Tampa for Vincent Lecavalier. He says "sources close to the team" have told him the package includes Tomas Plekanec, Chris Higgins, PK Subban, Josh Gorges and at least a couple of first round draft picks. Can you say "overpayment," boys and girls.
I love Bob Gainey. I think he's very smart and knows a ton about the game. My one fear with him is that he tends to run after every big name he thinks might be available in his quest to add the elusive "impact player." Fortunately for us and the team, Daniel Briere and Ryan Smyth decided to go elsewhere, and the Penguins swooped in and mortgaged their future for two months of Marian Hossa instead of letting Gainey do it to the Habs. Gainey's been saved from his own wishes, against his will. But would any of us want Briere's contract now? Or Smyth's? Or wish we'd won the Hossa sweepstakes only to see him ditch our team for Detroit? I don't think so. It's the same for Lecavalier. The pipe dream that the Next Great French Canadian Superstar could be a Hab is so irresistable to some that they'd do anything to get him, to the detriment of the team as a whole.
I don't want this to happen. Yet, I dread it might happen because Gainey's in the habit of swinging for the fences, and this time, if the rumours of how serious the Lightning's financial troubles are happen to be true, the owners might go for it and hamstring Gainey in his own ambition.
So, here are the top ten reasons why Lecavalier to Montreal would be a very, very bad idea:
10. The package. Trading three productive, dedicated core players, plus a top prospect who could turn out to be a very good offensive d-man, PLUS two first rounders which are the building blocks of your franchise is tantamount to giving up a big chunk of the future for the now. That assumes the Habs are ready to win the Cup with the installation of Lecavalier, which is a pretty big assumption. It also strips the core of the team by quite a lot. Lecavalier can't make Tampa win without a supporting cast. I think he wouldn't make Montreal win without one either.
9. Vinny the superstar. Lecavalier has done very well in his last couple of seasons, putting up totals of 108 and 92 points. He's never produced that well before, and this year he's on pace for only 72 points. I know the team isn't doing well, but Sidney Crosby is also playing on an underperforming team and he's on pace for 108 points. You might think it's ridiculous to compare Lecavalier and Crosby, but the deal we're talking about, and the contract we're talking about taking on, is in the Crosby ballpark...and Lecavalier's career numbers just aren't.
8. The money. Lecavalier stands to make ten million dollars in actual salary for each of the next seven years, and will not be a free agent until he's forty.
7. Star power. McKenzie says the Canadiens have made their offer, but it all depends on whether Lecavalier wants to move. And if he doesn't, the owners will have to try to talk him around and hope he cooperates. I think if Bob Gainey wants to move any player on his roster outside of Saku Koivu, he can do it without consequences. A player like Lecavalier adds complications because he has power with management and must be stroked. That's not without consequences in the room.
6. The expectations. If Lecavalier were to show up in Montreal with that contract, and for that cost to the current roster, he'd be expected to not only put up a hundred points a year, but also represent the Habs in the community with class, dignity and patience. He'd be expected to be the modern incarnation of Jean Beliveau. Unfortunately for him, there's only one Beliveau. Lecavalier is used to anonymity in Florida. He represents the franchise, but can go to the mall with nobody recognizing him. That won't happen in Montreal. If he decides the demands in Montreal make him unhappy, he and the team are stuck with the situation. It'll be worse if he doesn't perform as expected. Fans in Montreal will turn on him if he comes up with seventy-five points with that salary. And it won't be pretty.
5. The chemistry. The Habs have a very tight team and great chemistry now. Higgins is close to Komisarek and Price. Gorges is tight with Price. Plekanec is a Hab since his draft and is well-liked by all his contemporaries. Throwing those guys away for a new face is bound to stir resentment and uncertainty in the room. With only half a season to get over all that and find new chemistry with Lecavalier is hoping for a lot.
4. The supporting cast. Lecavalier can't win in Tampa without a supporting staff. Neither will he win in Montreal without one. Trading two of the hardest workers and arguably most talented young forwards on the team means the Habs have to make this year their window for a Cup. If they miss it, I don't know if they'll have the horses to go for it again next year.
3. Pleky. On a personal note, I haven't had a favourite Hab since Patrick Roy, until Plekanec. It took me eight years to get over Roy's trade. I really don't want to go through that again. But on a practical note, the Habs are not deep at centre throughout the organization. Without Plekanec, Lecavalier and Koivu stand as the only two offensive centres on the big team, assuming Lang won't be re-signed if Koivu is, and with Vinny's contract. Maxwell may pan out, or he may not. And Koivu will be gone in a couple of years. The Habs need young centres, and trading away a talented one with both offensive and defensive skill would be a mistake.
2. No-trade clause. If Lecavalier comes to Montreal and it's not working out for the team, Gainey's hands are tied. We saw what the no-trade clause did to Toronto's rebuilding attempts last summer. Of course, Vinny is a different player altogether, and there might be no reason for anyone to want him to waive his clause. But if there is...say if he's not producing and the team is cap-strung...it could get ugly and complicated.
1. Eleven years. ELEVEN years. Until he's FORTY. That's too long for anyone. That's Garth Snow territory. Eleven years scares the living crap out of me.
And those, my friends, are the reasons why it will be a HUGE mistake for Bob Gainey to trade for Vincent Lecavalier. Lecavalier could have been in Montreal in 2005, and again last summer if he chose to go there. He could be a Hab for no cost but money. He chose to stay with his own team. That's fine. That's loyalty. But now that he seems to be open to changing his mind, the cost is too much. It's time for Gainey to say, no, he's too late.