The Capitals are hardly alone in their pursuit of Vincent Lecavalier, but they can hope their coach’s prior work with the biggest name on the free-agent market pays dividends.
Capitals brass met Saturday with Lecavalier, who will officially hit the open market Friday after the Tampa Bay Lightning bought out his contract last week. Lecavalier was the face of the Lightning franchise, spending 14 seasons in Tampa Bay, and his sudden availability has teams lining up for a shot at the veteran center.
Washington coach Adam Oates was among those making the Capitals’ sales pitch, he confirmed to reporters Sunday at the NHL draft in Newark, N.J.
“He’s in a unique situation, obviously, from our collective bargaining agreement, and obviously a lot of teams are talking to him,” Oates said of Lecavalier. “You really just talk and provide information and answer any questions he might have.”
Oates played against Lecavalier in his last six seasons on the ice, and he served as an assistant coach with the Lightning in 2009-10.That’s the relationship the Capitals would like to use to their advantage.
“Vinny’s a guy that, one of the things I really respected about him, he wanted to play against the best players every night,” Oates told reporters. “He wanted the responsibility of playing against their best D every night, handling that pressure, game-in and game-out. I think he’s a guy that, if the day happens when we go four rounds, he’ll be a guy that would be standing there at the end of four rounds. That’s why a lot of teams are after him.”
Lecavalier’s availability could impact the market for Mike Ribeiro, who is an unrestricted free agent after excelling for the Capitals last season. He has said he would like to stay in Washington, but he wants a long-term deal to do so. Capitals general manager George McPhee said last week he would wait until the draft was over to delve into Ribeiro’s situation.
However the offseason shakes out, there’s no doubt the Capitals would be a better team next winter if they can find a way to have one of those two 33-year-olds centering a line.
“Obviously [Ribeiro] played for us last year and we all love him and if it works out, great,” Oates said. “If it doesn’t, it’s part of the business and we all have to turn that page and we respect that.”