Lecavalier's popularity apparent early

NEWARK, N.J. -- It certainly didn’t take long for freshly minted UFA Vincent Lecavalier to get some attention around the league.

While the 33-year-old center technically can’t sign with anyone other than the Tampa Bay Lightning until July 5, league rules allow his camp to talk to other teams until then. And that process started in a hurry.

"We have been reached out to by a number of teams, easily a dozen or more," Kent Hughes, Lecavalier’s agent, told ESPN.com Friday afternoon. "This is the beginning of the process in trying to understand the various situations and trying to narrow it down."

It was still way too early, Hughes said, to declare any potential front-runners. The process will need some time before that becomes clear.

But it’s an important time for the Lecavalier camp. The ability to speak to teams right away gives him a leg up on regular UFAs, who have to wait until the July 3-4 window. Hughes will want to get a lot of the legwork done before getting ready to sign his client to a new team July 5.

In the meantime, Lecavalier is organizing his thoughts right now, trying to figure out what markets would best suit him, etc.

During a media call Thursday, Lecavalier mentioned the Detroit Red Wings as a team he liked growing up (along with the Montreal Canadiens). Well, the feeling is apparently mutual. A source Friday said that the Wings have interest in Lecavalier, although certainly not at any cost. It’s going to have to make sense both in salary and term. And the Wings know they won’t be alone in a courtship of Lecavalier.

Pending UFA Stephen Weiss is another potential option for the second-line center job in Detroit, but there will be lots of competition for his services as well.

The Wings are not approaching their buying season with any kind of desperation. They feel they’re in good shape. They’ve got youth coming up, their AHL team just won the Calder Cup, and they’re not going to go out of their way to overspend in free agency for the sake of it.

And if they can’t find a center in free agency or via trade, they can always put Henrik Zetterberg in the No. 2 slot, separating him from Pavel Datsyuk.

This is all pending the expectation that Valtteri Filppula is headed to market. The pending UFA forward is not close to a new deal with Detroit, and while the Wings and his agent were slated to speak again this weekend, odds of a new deal don’t seem great.

And that is why guys like Lecavalier and Weiss could be options in free agency.

Keep an eye on former Detroit assistant GM Jim Nill, by the way. I hear the new Dallas Stars GM also would like to add a veteran forward, and Lecavalier and Weiss are on his radar. He could be competing with his old pal Ken Holland for some of the same players.

The Stars have the long view of wanting to key on drafting and development, but in the short term they also want to shore up the roster with a few more veterans in order to contend for the playoffs next season. They already began that process by trading for and signing defenseman Sergei Gonchar.


• In the wake of my report Thursday night that the Kris Letang camp had rejected a $56 million, eight-year offer from the Pittsburgh Penguins, both sides were mostly quiet Friday.

Penguins GM Ray Shero declined to comment on the situation when reached by ESPN.com Friday. His quiet demeanor leads you to believe that perhaps he has begun to look at the trade market on Letang. Mind you, it’s also expected that Shero and Hughes, who is also Letang’s agent, would speak this weekend at some point to see where they can take this after so far failing to find the right number for an extension.

“Our goal remains to see if there’s a deal that can be worked out,” Hughes told ESPN.com Friday afternoon.

• I’m not surprised the New York Rangers decided to not buy out Brad Richards. With a new coach in place, it behooves the Blueshirts to see if Alain Vigneault can get Richards back on track. (Vigneault and Richards met for a 90-minute chat recently.) Richards has been working out with Martin St. Louis in Connecticut lately, and in speaking to him the other day, Richards sounded like a man hell bent on proving to people he’s still an elite player.

This was the right call by the Rangers. Besides, if Richards doesn’t bounce back, the Rangers can use their last compliance buyout on him next summer.

• Hearing that goalie Jonas Hiller could be available for the right price. He’s got one more year on his contract at $4.5 million, so this is the time to move him for maximum value. From talking to sources around the league, the sense is that the Anaheim Ducks are not really shopping Hiller, but given their depth in goal -- 19-year-old John Gibson is a highly rated prospect, plus Viktor Fasth proved himself this past season -- a good offer on Hiller would probably make the team think, at the very least.

• The Ottawa Senators got great news Friday with captain Daniel Alfredsson informing them he’d be returning for another season. And they got the news in a timely fashion, before the offseason really got going.

“He brings to the table not only talent, but the intangibles are just as important for the most part: leadership, character, the willingness to work with young players,” veteran Sens GM Bryan Murray told ESPN.com Friday afternoon. “It’s nice to hear that he wants to play. Now it’s just a matter of getting a contract done with him.”

Well, there is that. Alfredsson will be UFA July 5. His agent, J.P. Barry of CAA Sports, was slated to speak with Murray later Friday to get the ball rolling in talks.

It’s funny. Most people view this as a formality given that Alfredsson has never played anywhere else. Thing is, even at his age, Alfredsson was third in team scoring this past season with 26 points (10-16) in 47 games, albeit on an injury-ravaged team. He’s not going to sign for peanuts, is what I’m saying.

• The Senators, by the way, would like to move up in the draft from their current 17th overall spot. Murray has made a few calls to see if there’s any possibility of ending up in the 5-10 range.

• The Carolina Hurricanes are taking calls on the No. 5 overall pick and are willing to move down for the right price. The Canes are on the lookout for a top-four blueliner this offseason.

• Bill Zito, agent for star goalie Tuukka Rask, expects to meet with Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli on Saturday here during draft weekend. Rask, of course, is an RFA July 5 and is going to rake it in.

• Perhaps a hint of what’s to come for Thomas Vanek? The Buffalo Sabres have yet to approach his camp with any word of a contract extension. With one year left on his deal, either you sign the player this summer or trade him. Makes no sense to let him enter next season on an expiring deal and have the asset diminish in value.

And I leave you with some food for thought:

One thing to look for over the next week, according to one NHL player agent: If talks break down between pending UFAs and their respective teams, the possibility exists of a sign-and-trade to take advantage of the CBA rule that allows teams to sign their free agents to eight-year deals, whereas players can get only seven years on the open market.

Both the player and team would have a potential gain. The former team could get more value in a trade if the player is signed, and the player gets an extra year in term with his new team.