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Former Lightning star Lecavalier agrees to deal with Flyers

It did not take long for Vinny Lecavalier to go from one of the Lightning's biggest stars to one of its biggest rivals.

The former Tampa Bay captain, whose $32.667 million buyout is the richest in NHL history, agreed Tuesday to a five-year, $22.5 million contract with the Flyers, arguably the opponent Lightning fans hate most.

"Twist the knife in," one fan tweeted after reading the news.

Wrote another: "Throws up in mouth."

The deal pays $6 million the next two years, $4.5 million in 2015-16 and $3 million in 2016-17 and 2017-18, Canada's RDS network reported.

It cannot be signed until Friday when Lecavalier, 33 — whose 14 seasons with the Lightning began in 1998 when he was drafted No. 1 overall — becomes an unrestricted free agent.

"It will be strange," Lightning founder Phil Esposito said of seeing Lecavalier in a Flyers sweater. "But he has to do what he has to do. God bless him is all I can say."

The deal ends a whirlwind for Lecavalier, who was bought out last week and spent Saturday and Sunday in New York meeting with teams, including Philadelphia, the Stars, Red Wings, Sharks, Flames, Maple Leafs, Blues and Canadiens.

Up to 15 teams were said to be interested in the center, a Tampa Bay community icon, who leads the Lightning with 1,037 games and 383 goals and is lauded for his charitable contributions.

That the Flyers won out was a surprise. With Lecavalier's contract, which carries a $4.5 million salary cap hit, Philadelphia is $318,000 over the $64.3 million cap and still needs a No. 1 goalie. There is speculation that defenseman Braydon Coburn could be traded to create cap space.

There is no speculation about how Lightning fans feel about the Flyers.

The teams have met twice in the playoffs. The November 2011 stall game, in which Flyers players seven times in the first period held the puck in their zone to combat Tampa Bay's 1-3-1 defensive scheme, is infamous.

And last season, Flyers pest Zac Rinaldo punched Tampa Bay's B.J. Crombeen at least once when he was on his knees and in a vulnerable position. In another game, a Rinaldo hit separated Ryan Malone's left shoulder.

"At some point," Tampa Bay's Pierre-Cedric Labrie said of Rinaldo, "he has to pay for his bad behavior."

That aside, Lecavalier will find a welcoming atmosphere, said Bobby "The Chief" Taylor, a Sun Sports analyst and a Flyers goalie from 1971-76.

"They want to win, but if you're working your tail off, that will be fine with them," Taylor said of Flyers fans. "They can't stand guys who are going through the motions. A lot of times it makes you a better player. You know you have to play hard all the time."

Lecavalier will make out better financially than had he stayed with Tampa Bay.

With his $32.667 million buyout (two-thirds of the $45 million Tampa Bay still owed him) and the $22.5 million he'll get from the Flyers, Lecavalier will earn $55.167 million.

Still, there will be the first view of himself in a Flyers sweater.

"It really will be weird," Taylor said.

Just ask Esposito, who was traded from the Bruins to the hated Rangers: "I was like, 'What the hell do I have on?' "

Trade: Tampa Bay acquired defenseman Drew Olson from the Blue Jackets for future considerations. Olson, 23, played the past four years with the University of Minnesota-Duluth. He also played five games last season with AHL Peoria and had one assist. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder was drafted 118th overall in 2008.

Around the league

Letang extended: The Penguins locked up another elite young player, agreeing to terms with defenseman Kris Letang. A finalist for the Norris Trophy, Letang got an eight-year, $58 million extension. He joins centers Sidney Crosby (12 years, $104.4 million) and Evgeni Malkin (eight years, $76 million) as players signing long-term with Pittsburgh in the past 13 months.

More deals: The Blue Jackets signed Blake Comeau to a one-year extension. … The Wild made qualifying offers to restricted free agents Tyler Cuma, Kyle Medvec, Jared Spurgeon, Justin Fontaine and Carson McMillan.

Information from Times wires was used in this report.

Former Lightning star Lecavalier agrees to deal with Flyers 07/02/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 12:02am]
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