But at the other end of the spectrum, the Lightning’s first overall pick from the 1998 draft remains hopeful for a move out of Philadelphia before his career is over.
"I still believe in what I can do," Vincent Lecavalier, 35, said over the phone Tuesday.
He hasn’t played since Nov. 15. But by all accounts he has handled it with class, which is no surprise for those who know the former star Lightning captain.
"It’s obviously been tough," Lecavalier said. "But at the same time, I’m not going to the rink pissed off every day. I mean, I’m not playing, there’s nothing else you need to say. The only thing I can control is just how hard I practice and how ready I am for when either I come back into the lineup or if something happens with a trade or something like that."
Just one more chance. It’s what Lecavalier craves. Could a playoff-bound team take a flyer on him? Clearly it's in the best interest of the retooling Philadelphia Flyers to move on from the veteran center.
"Yeah, obviously, I don’t think it’s a secret," Lecavalier said. "I think both parties are looking at the same thing; hopefully there’s something here in the near future that can be done. I’m obviously not in those conversations, but if the phone rings, there’s definitely interest in going somewhere because I want to play hockey. I still love it, I still want to do it, I want to have a role on a team, whatever role that is."
However, in a game that’s more than ever about youth, it’s fair to ask what exactly Lecavalier can still bring. He had 20 points in 57 games last season, which came after putting up 37 points in 69 games the season before, his first in Philadelphia. People question what impact he can still have, and Lecavalier understands that.
"Yeah, I can see that," he said. "First of all, I haven’t played in a while so obviously it’s tough to judge. But I still believe in what I can do and what I can bring. I can bring leadership, whatever role a team would want me to do. I can play solid both ways. It’s just a matter of having the chance to have some type of role. Whatever role that is, I’d be ready to fill it and help that team win. That’s the most important thing at my age and where I’ve been; the last few years have been really tough. I just really want to win and help be part of that puzzle to help a team win."
If he was a rental player, he’d be on a new team by now, but because he has two years on his contract after this year at a $4.5 million cap hit ($3 million salary), teams are obviously scared by that commitment. It’s why he hasn’t gone anywhere to this point despite being on the market for a year and a half.
My sense is Lecavalier’s agent, Kent Hughes, has made it clear to teams that if they took a chance on his client, an effort would be made to ensure those final two years on the deal wouldn't hang over the club in one form or another.
This isn’t about money for Lecavalier; it’s about wanting to prove he’s still got some hockey left in him, even if in some smaller role.
It’s why I think if a normal trade route doesn’t materialize by the desired goal of the Feb. 29 trade deadline, Lecavalier and Hughes would even consider -- like Alexander Semin did earlier this season -- terminating his contract if it improved chances of catching on with another team on a low-salary deal via free agency.
"The only chance he has is to take a big pay cut and become a good third- or fourth-line player," said one Western Conference NHL scout via text Tuesday.
I don’t know what’s left in the Lecavalier tank, but I sure would love a chance to see it play out on a contender. He deserves one more shot.