Lacing Up is a weekly column taken from an email conversation between Ashley Gallant and CJ. “Stoosh” Jiuliante. Stoosh is a former Faceoff Factor staff writer and a long-time hockey fan.

Mike Wilson joins us again to talk about Tampa Bay Lightning captain, Vincent Lecavalier.

Ash: Mike, I’m glad that you decided to join us again this week! We didn’t scare you off!

The last time you were with us, we discussed the situation in Tampa with Dumb and Dumberer. I thought that, this week, we could continue along with the drama from Tampa Bay.

Rumours around the NHL indicate that the Lightning are shopping captain Vincent Lecavalier, who signed an 11-year contract extension last summer, which kicks in this July (along with a shiny new no-trade clause). Several prominent journalists have ‘confirmed’ that Brian Lawton is asking several teams whether they would be interested in acquiring Lecavalier, and the team with the most interest in the Quebec native is Montreal.

How do you guys feel about the idea of the Lightning trading Lecavalier? And is Montreal a good destination?

Mike: It’s good to be back! It takes a lot to scare me away!

Ahh yes, Tampa Bay. I would like to issue an opening statement
regarding Mr. Lecavalier. I think Tampa Bay owes it to their captain, who has stuck with them through thick and thin, to give him a chance to succeed somewhere else. He’s been very good to that organization, and now it’s time for them to return the favor.

Now I can’t just say that Tampa owes this to Lecavalier, but also to themselves. The over-abundance of star power they signed in the offseason certainly isn’t winning them games. And if anyone on that team deserves to be shopped around the league for a handful of role players, it’s either Lecavalier or St. Louis.

Regarding Montreal, it all depends. Worrying about where Lecavalier can play shouldn’t be a problem. I have no doubt that his work ethic will fit in with any team. And any team would be happy to have him (barring contractual issues, of course). The real question is do the Habs have what Tampa Bay needs? The Lightning need role players who can bring chemistry back to the lines…something they either traded away or let walk due to cap room after the lockout and haven’t enjoyed since.

They need players who know how to set up offense and make crisp passes. Because, as the Penguins found out, goaltending isn’t a problem, though defense is lacking. Someone like Roman Hamrlik or even Tom Kostopoulos could help the team’s woes. Both are great two-way players and would bring a much needed spark from Montreal. Anyone else from the Great White North who might be helpful?

But the other thing you mentioned, Ash, is what makes this all very interesting: Lecavalier’s 11-year extension which includes a no-trade clause effective July 1. Why else would he agree to an extension for 11 years and not want to stay in Tampa Bay? What makes that interesting is that it seems as though the organization suddenly doesn’t want Lecavalier around anymore, but he didn’t seem to want to leave. I suppose that all depends on whether or not Vinny wants to go out with class or if he wants to do it like Bryan McCabe.

These guys are confusing. What are they doing down there in the Forum?

Ash: Who knows what on earth is going on in Tampa. Maybe someone is of the opinion that they need to COMPLETELY blow up the team, leaving poor Stamkos alone as the franchise player.

Now, I’m not sure just what is going on inside Lecavalier’s head, but all indications point to the idea that he isn’t too keen on going anywhere – who would be, months after agreeing to a monster 11-year, “I’ll be with you until I retire,” contract? Furthermore, if he was willing to move on, I somehow doubt that he would want to return home to Montreal. French Canadian star players have to deal with incredible amounts of pressure from being the ‘local hero’ – more pressure than most human beings are willing to deal with. It also doesn’t help that many Quebecois consider the Habs to be their religion. Many a player has turned down Montreal’s cash….Danny Briere, anyone?

Now, I’ve heard that Tampa wants a number of players and several first rounders…if indeed they are shopping him (which they say they aren’t). The names that I’ve heard include Plekanec, Higgins, Gorges, and Subban. I know that Lecavalier is a really good player, if not a great one, but I’m not quite sold on him coming to Montreal. If I was Bob Gainey, my biggest concern would be Lecavalier’s contract. Sure, you could look at it and say, “But an 11-year contract means that we won’t lose him to free agency!”...but you could also say, “And if he suddenly goes downhill, how the heck are we going to move him?”

As to whether Montreal has what Tampa needs, I would say they do. The problem, however, is that those players shouldn’t be traded. Montreal is already a tad thin on the defensive end of things, so they would be cautious in giving up defensemen.

I wonder if Tampa regrets giving up Dan Boyle…

Mike: I would imagine they do regret that Boyle decision. Although, they don’t seem to know much about what they’re doing so maybe they don’t.

If I were Lecavalier, I’d certainly be hoping to stay in Tampa Bay. He can play however he wants (not that I’m indicating he’d play bad intentionally) and still get the same amount of money per year. And with a long-term contract like that, I’m sure he’ll be pulling in a lot of money.

I agree about Montreal on both stances. Lecavalier would have those fans on him night in and night out, through good and bad. The Habs have a great team right now and I doubt they would want to go shopping around that store in Tampa Bay where everything is expensive and shiny, yet complicated.

I also think that, with a few exceptions, any team in the NHL that has good depth has what Tampa Bay needs. But, as you noted Ash, no one wants to deal with the Lightning’s troubles. In my own personal opinion, I don’t feel any player should sign a contract longer than 7-8 years. If he’s really your franchise player, he’ll prove it and love playing in which ever city and won’t hesitate to resign.

It just seems like 11 years is an awful long time when you consider it on the hockey calender.

Ash: The more I think about this, the more I wonder what I would do if I was in Lecavalier’s shoes. As we’ve discussed, Montreal is one hard place to play simply because the fans can get on you if they don’t like how you are competing. The pressure can be unbearable.

On the flip side, this could be an opportunity to go from a non-hockey market to one where hockey is simply everything. No offence to anyone, but I think that there is nothing better than winning the Stanley Cup in Montreal. Furthermore, by moving to Montreal, Lecavalier would have the chance to put himself in the ranks of Maurice Richard and Jean Belliveau.

What to do…? I’m glad I don’t have to make this decision.

Mike: Well if I were in Lecavalier’s shoes, I would be wanting a
trade to a team who not only knows how to win, but knows how to win consistantly…so Pittsburgh is out.

But seriously…

If I were Lecavalier’s agent, on the other hand, I would tell him to
stay and take the consistant money and years in nice weather.

I would love to see Vinny do well in a thriving market. I believe over the years, he’s earned it. He’s been a well-known star in the NHL, he’s been supportive of their programs, and stepped up as an ambassador to those programs and the league as a whole.