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Flyers sign top free agent

Lecavalier gets 5-year deal for $22.5 million

– The Philadelphia Flyers have signed veteran center Vincent Lecavalier to a multi-year contract.

The Tampa Bay Lightning let their 33-year-old captain go last week, and the Flyers pounced Tuesday night, signing him to a reported five-year deal worth $22.5 million.

Tampa Bay cut ties with Lecavalier to clear space under a smaller salary cap. The Philadelphia Flyers took advantage of both of their compliance buyouts to release forward Danny Briere and goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.

Lecavalier didn’t mesh with Tampa Bay’s plans, or at least his contract didn’t with seven years and $45 million remaining on it.

The four-time All-Star, drafted No. 1 overall by the Lightning in 1998, helped the franchise win the Stanley Cup in 2004 and scored a franchise-high 383 goals.

By buying him out, it saved Tampa Bay more than $7.7 million cap space for the upcoming season.

The move cost them $32 million over 14 years because he is due two-thirds the value of his deal spread over twice the term of the contract.

He scored a league-high 52 times during the 2006-07 season and had 32 points in 39 games during the shortened season.

Lecavalier had signed an 11-year deal with Tampa Bay in 2008. He had 10 goals and 32 points in 39 games last season for the Lightning.

Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Penguins locked up another elite young player long term, announcing they had agreed to terms with defenseman Kris Letang.

A finalist for the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman, Letang received an eight-year, $58 million contract extension.

Letang, 26, tied for the scoring lead among NHL defensemen last season with 38 points in 35 games. He has 44 goals and 165 assists over six-plus seasons.

Letang joins star centers Sidney Crosby (12 years, $104.4 million) and Evgeni Malkin (eight years, $76 million) as players the Penguins have given long-term contracts to in the past 13 months.

Under the collective bargaining agreement, Letang cannot sign till Friday. The pact – the longest allowable by terms of the new collective bargaining agreement – will run through the 2021-22 season, when the 6-foot, 201-pound native of Montreal will be 35.

The salary cap for the 2013-14 season is projected at $63.4 million, although it is expected to increase dramatically the following year.

Potential free agents such as forward Mike Ribeiro, who appears to have passed on re-signing with Washington, or other players who weren’t welcomed back will hit the market today for the first of a two-day interview period before any deals can be signed.

“It’s great to have players out there,” Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock told AP, “but you have to have money to spend.”

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