Rick DiPietro crushed Nikolai Khabibulin yesterday in the quarterfinals, a truly impressive feat given how much Khabibulin is hated by most of our readers. His next opponent will be either overpaid forward, Vincent Lecavalier, or overpaid defenseman Brian Campbell. Lecavlier cruised to victory in the opening round, defeating Danny Briere 267-81; Campbell's opening round was much closer, but he still delivered a convincing 319-167 victory over Scott Gomez.
Here's the bottom line. Does Vincent Lecavalier belong on a list of the ten best players in the game today? How about top twenty? Thirty? I don't think that he is. And yet the Tampa Bay Lightning are going to pay this player ten million dollars over the next five years beyond this one. The Lightning aren't a cap team, so to me, the salary figure is the one to look at, which makes the deal less of a risk long term (those last two years aren't a big deal), but makes the short-term pain rather extreme. This season, Lecavalier was the highest paid player in the league (tied with Roberto Luongo). Among players signed for next year, Lecavlier makes $1M more than the man in second (Sidney Crosby). From 2012-13 to 2015-16, he's second only to Ilya Kovalchuk, who's playing for a team that spends to the cap. Given that Lecavalier is turning thirty-one this April, it's likely that his performance over these next several years is only going to get worse, and with a no-movement clause attached to his contract, the Lightning are stuck with him.
The two big concerns with Brian Campbell are opportunity and injury. Shoulder, knee, and foot injuries over the last two seasons don't provide a lot of confidence that Campbell's body will hold up all that well over the next five seasons. In terms of performance, Campbell is playing in a sheltered role with the Blackhawks this year, and the results are fine, but not fantastic, which is what you'd expect from a guy pulling down $7M+ per year. He has the easiest end-zone start ratio among Blackhawk defenders (61.1% of his starts are in the offensive zone), and we all know that he's not taking on the toughs, and yet his Corsi number is worse than that of Duncan Keith and only marginally better than Brent Seabrook. On the PP, he ranks third in TOI per game behind the two aforementioned defenders, which limits his offensive effectiveness further. Brian Campbell is Chicago's third-best defenseman, and his ice time is doled out accordingly, and that means he'll never be able to come close to providing value for his ticket with the Blackhawks. His no-trade clause allows him to list eight teams that he'd accept a trade to, and presumably he'd pick good ones. Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, it's difficult to imagine a good team wanting to pick up that contract.