Monday, June 1, 2009

Vinny...Should he stay or should he go?

So from the firm "no" response given by Lawton to the question if Lecavalier would be traded back in March...we are now only 30 days away from a decision that may/will define Lawton's career as a GM.

Last summer, Vinny spent the off season rehabbing his shoulder after surgery and missed training camp. He played the season with nagging injuries that you could clearly see affect his game. This summer after a successful wrist surgery and time to rehab it, Vinny will be able to have the time to train properly for the upcoming season. Speaking to the St. Petersburg Times, Vinny said:
"I hope it's going to be the best summer of my career," and "I'm determined to be in the best shape of my life." He has even gone so far as to hire speed skater and speed skating coach.

Now Lawton has said that is he not actively shopping Lecavalier, but all the GM's in the league know that Lawton will listen to offers and why wouldn't he?. Obviously Lawton will listen to every trade offer that is coming his way with regards to Vinny, that's just part of hockey management. With such a hefty contract that OK Hockey offered Vinny, I can't imagine that there are many teams that are offering a trade for Vinny, mostly just because of cap reasons. The per season hit at $7.7 million for Vinny is on par for other elite players, but the contract length of 10 years is ridiculous since is already 29 years old. Now if the Lightning were playing well or the cap were to hold steady or keep rising we wouldn't necessarily call this a bad contract. Lecavalier is a franchise center. Each team needs to spend money on an at least 1 elite player; some spend it on a goalies, others on forwards, but it is not every day that you think about trading away your franchise player (if you have one).

Lawton has said that the past year the management have been "owner-operators" and this year he has given the final word for hockey operation decisions (although not really if you read the whole article). He will have to decide in the next 30 days whether a trade from another team is worth trading away your franchise center. Will he be known as the GM that traded away Vinny?

There may be a trade proposal that he may receive that actually might be a sensible hockey deal for the Lightning...maybe. But do you think that Lawton will be able to see it? He currently is known as the GM who after signing Dan Boyle, forced him to waive the no trade clause and shipped him off to San Jose. Now there wouldn't be so much anger if the trade had brought back players who were 1. good/not disappointments and 2. are still with the team, but alas that was not the case. If Lawton trades away Vinny and the Lightning end up looking like Boston after they traded away Thornton, that will be Lawton's legacy as GM.

Why are other teams like LA looking for a player like Vinny when they are currently full of young talent? The reason is because they want an elite player like Vinny to take their team to the next level. Even though they have drafted well, they are still missing a key piece to take through the playoffs.

There are a couple of things that also affect Lawton's decision.
1. Player payroll limit
- It really depends on what the management is willing to spend on this team. If they are not willing to spend more than the the floor of the cap, the roster will be top heavy on 1 player and will ice a team that looks exactly like it did this year.
-If Lawton can only really spend the floor of the cap, and the management only want to ice a mediocre team, then trading away Lecavalier for a couple good (not great) players should do that for you. But mediocrity does not bring long playoff runs
-If Lawton can spend more than the minimum, having Lecavalier and giving him a team that can move the puck to him will increase his offensive output. This year was a terrible team this year, some nights they forgot how to play nhl hockey. Imagine if Lecavalier had a good puck moving defenceman that could feed him the puck or even a defensive unit that did not break down every game.

2. If you trade away Vinny will your fanbase understand? Or will they stop buying in to the franchise? The fans were upset at the Boyle trade and they were not pleased about watching a terrible team for 2 years in a row finishing dead last, and 29th respectively. Will trading away Lecavalier be the last straw for current Lightning fans?

3. If you trade him away will that affect a future player's decision to sign in Tampa? If after signing a 10 year contract with a no trade clause, and just before the contract starts, you trade the player, what does that say for your management strategy? Do players trust you? You already run one of the worst teams in the league, how will you build a team of players that want to play for you if they can't trust your word.

On the flip side, does keeping Vinny with his NTC affect what your team will be able to do in a couple years when both Stamkos and Hedman/Tavares 2009 draft pick (assuming they turn out to be good) come to contract negotiation time? Or do you try to make a cup run while both of them are still under their entry level salaries and deal with the contract later?

So clearly the next 30 days will be interesting...If Lawton can't make the right move, the best move may be no move at all.

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