TAMPA - When Vinny Lecavalier hit the free-agent market for the first time in his career after his contract was bought out by Tampa Bay, the demand for his services exceeded his expectations.
But after spending draft weekend listening to pitches from nearly a dozen teams, he settled on his new destination rather quickly, agreeing on a five-year contract worth $22 million with Philadelphia. The deal was officially announced Saturday before Lecavalier spoke with the media on a conference call.
"Philly, with the meeting I had with them, that's the place I really wanted to go," Lecavalier said. "Right after I talked with Philly even before any offers or anything, they went right to the top of the list. I just liked what they were saying, and looking at their lineup. ... But I liked (head coach Peter Laviolette's) point of view on the game. I just like their style of play. They play hard, they play well defensively, but offense is also something they can bring that's very solid, so I thought I'd fit well in that mold."
Considering some of the history between the Lightning and the Flyers through the years - the 2004 conference final showdown, the infamous stall game in 2011, the bad blood last year with Lecavalier engaging in two fights during the teams' meetings - Lecavalier and Philadelphia might seem an odd match. But playing against Laviolette's up-tempo style of play the past several seasons proved to be an enticing element in Lecavalier's decision to sign with the team some might consider Tampa Bay's most bitter on-ice rival.
"I like that better than staying on your heels," Lecavalier said. "I think when you're on your heels a lot more, you're not in the game as much, you're not as sharp, as quick. If you're on your toes like the Flyers play, I think it makes you a better hockey player. You're always on the go, you're aggressive in the offensive zone. Obviously you've got to play well defensively, but once you're out of that zone, you're skating and you have to skate. So it makes you skate harder, and I think it makes you quicker."
Lecavalier, who has played center his whole career, mentioned that he is even open to changing positions if asked to do so.
"I've never played wing, but honestly, I would feel very comfortable on the right side," Lecavalier said. "It's not something that I really worry about, especially when you're being told you might play with Claude Giroux. I'm really open to that, and I'd be really excited about that."
The 33-year-old former Lightning captain will head into next season with a bit of a chip on his shoulder, though not necessarily directed at Tampa Bay or general manager Steve Yzerman.
"When you get bought out, it's definitely motivation," Lecavalier said. "I guess I want to prove the Flyers right. It's not about proving anybody else wrong or the Lightning wrong. I feel great.
"Honestly, I felt like (this season) I was playing some really good hockey (before and after his ankle injury), probably the best in five years. I think with Lavi's style and the players, I feel very confident that I'll have a really good season and help the Flyers."
FREE AGENT: Jaromir Jagr wants to extend his NHL career, and his agent said some teams are "very interested" in his 41-year-old client.
Jagr might have to wait a while, and the league's active scoring leader might not be the only free agent without a new job this weekend.
"He definitely still wants to play, and there is some interest in him," said Jagr's agent, Petr Svoboda. Svoboda declined to say which teams wanted to sign Jagr.
OILERS: Edmonton re-signed forward Ryan Jones to a one-year contract.
STARS: Dallas signed top draft pick Valeri Nichushkin to a three-year entry-level contract. The 18-year-old Russian winger was the 10th overall pick in the draft.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.