Pressure building for Vincent Lecavalier

November, 4, 2009

Any other year, and Vincent Lecavalier's so-so start to the season wouldn't have generated this much attention.

But this happens to be the first season of an 11-year, $85 million contract, a deal which pays him $10 million a season for the first seven years.

This also happens to be an Olympic year, which means, at least in Canada, his so-so start has generated big-time buzz.

And believe me, the people who will be picking Team Canada's 2010 lineup have also noticed. The 29-year-old Lecavalier is very much on the bubble after producing just one goal in the month of October.

Lecavalier, speaking to a handful of us Tuesday night in Toronto, said his first concern is always the Tampa Bay Lightning, but, obviously, the Olympics are also weighing on him.

"It's also in the back of my mind that I want to be part of this Olympic team," Lecavalier said after Tampa Bay's 2-1 overtime win over Toronto. "Even though I struggled a little bit in the first month, I really think if I have a good month of November -- I don't know exactly when they pick that team -- but if I have a good month and a half, hopefully I can be part of that team."

Team Canada will announce its roster Dec. 31. Lecavalier has some work to do in the meantime. He played one of his better games of the season Tuesday night at Air Canada Centre with Team Canada GM Steve Yzerman and his management staff looking on. The relief on his face after scoring his second goal of the season was palpable. He needed that goal.

Even a guy that's accomplished so much in his illustrious career needs a confidence boost every now and then, and that's what he got Tuesday night with the goal.

"Sometimes when you don't score for a few games, it kind of gets in your head," Lecavalier said. "It's the exact opposite when you start scoring a lot -- you feel like you can pick any corner you want, do whatever you want with the puck and it's going to go in. Hopefully, I'm going to get into that mode and get out of this little slump, and hopefully we won't be talking about this in 30-40 games."

Everyone in Lecavalier's circle wants to help, but sometimes that has the opposite effect. Getting a text message that says "Hang in there" just brings you down sometimes.

"Probably the worst is when your buddies call you and remind you," Lecavalier said with a chuckle. "They want to help you, but it just reminds you that you're struggling a little bit and you can't get the puck in. I understand my friends want to be nice and help me, but of course when you're reminded about it too much, you just want to get away from that and just focus on the next game."

It should be noted that he does have nine assists to give him 11 points in 13 games -- not too bad. But the two goals stand out. He's better than that. That's certainly what his coach thinks, too. Rick Tocchet has been hard on Lecavalier early this season, sending him a message with a 16-minute game Monday in Philadelphia. There also may have been a one-sided chat between coach and captain.

All of which makes you wonder how this will play out. Let's start at the top, where owner Oren Koules is trying to find a new investor to help pave the way for Len Barrie's exit as part-owner. Will that have any effect on Lecavalier's situation? Time will tell.

If the team isn't doing well by Christmas, I have to think there's a chance trade talks will be revisited. Unlike last season, Lecavalier is now in charge thanks to his no-movement clause. Any possible move goes through the captain and his agent, Kent Hughes.

Some people believe Lecavalier is untradeable because of the contract. I disagree. He remains one of the better centers in the world when he's on his game and in the right environment.

Maybe we're getting a little ahead of ourselves because perhaps none of this trade talk will ever come to pass. But if it does, it's fun to wonder which teams will call, no? How about the Los Angeles Kings? I think GM Dean Lombardi has the green light to add a major piece this season. Anyone fancy a Lecavalier-Anze Kopitar 1-2 punch at center?

And what of the New York Rangers. Marian Gaborik is flying in the Big Apple. Imagine if he had a bona-fide No. 1 center? Imagine a reunion with Coach John Tortorella? Of course, there's the little matter of the Rangers having zero cap room, but I digress. Then there's the Montreal Canadiens. Oh, I just don't have the energy to go there.

Then again, maybe the Lightning will get on a nice roll and everyone will be happy in Tampa. Maybe.

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer



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