Fourteen seasons into his NHL career, Vinny Lecavalier is about to become a free agent for the first time. When the market opens at noon on July 5, he will be free to negotiate and sign with any of 29 NHL teams - any team, that is, but Tampa Bay. According to a stipulation in the NHL's amnesty buyout procedure, a player cannot re-sign or be reacquired via trade for one year by the team that bought out his contract. Lecavalier would like to be the final piece in a team's Stanley Cup puzzle. And several teams likely will have interest. So, which teams would be a good fit for the 33-year-old center?
Here is a look at five that could be in Lecavalier's future:
1. Detroit Red Wings
Believe it or not, Lecavalier grew up watching the Red Wings and idolizing their captain, Steve Yzerman. The Red Wings are perennial playoff contenders, but lost the 2013 Western Conference semifinals in seven games to eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago. Detroit also could be in the market for a second-line center. The Red Wings likely will part ways with pending free agent Valtteri Filppula, who is seeking roughly $5 million a year in his new contract.
2. Montreal Canadiens
Any time trade rumors cropped up about Lecavalier - and it happened plenty - Montreal was at the forefront. For years, Habs fans have yearned for a homegrown, French-speaking star. Lecavalier was born in Ile Bizard, a suburb of Montreal. He loves his home city. Interestingly, the general manager of the Canadiens is Marc Bergevin, a former teammate of Lecavalier. But the Montreal spotlight shines brightly on high-profile hockey players, something Lecavalier has long avoided in low-key Florida. Would he be up for a homecoming?
3. Los Angeles Kings
The Kings were frequently on the periphery of Lecavalier trade rumors. The franchise won its first Stanley Cup in 2012, but fell short in its efforts to defend, losing to eventual champ Chicago in the Western Conference finals. The Kings already have Mike Richards and Anze Kopitar at center, but Kopitar was demoted to the third line because of his lack of production during the playoffs. Lecavalier could be an interesting addition if the Kings find the salary cap space.
4. Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers consider themselves perennial playoff contenders. They also have the necessary salary cap space to sign Lecavalier after buying out the contracts of goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov and forward Danny Briere. Philadelphia would seem to have greater needs - their top six forwards are pretty solid, but they lack a No. 1 goaltender. Still, never count the Flyers out when it comes to making a splashy move.
5. Vancouver Canucks
C'mon. Who wouldn't like to see a reunion of Lecavalier and fiery former Lightning head coach John Tortorella, who just took over the job in Vancouver earlier this week?