So while he was disappointed when the team bought out the final seven years of his contract in June, he said he's more than excited for the fresh start he's getting with the Philadelphia Flyers.
"I'm excited for this challenge and this new opportunity," Lecavalier said Thursday after his first official training camp practice as a member of the Flyers. "Sometimes when you are somewhere for too long … it's a different feel and it's exciting. It's exciting for me, it's exciting for my family. It's something new.
"I was lucky enough to be in one place for 14 years, with a great organization. I had to move on, and I have."
The next step in that process came Thursday morning, when he hit the ice as part of the first practice group.
"I felt great," Lecavalier said. "It was a great practice. It was nice to get an organized practice; the last few weeks was good with the guys, but to get a real practice in, 3 on 3s and 5 on 5s and 4 on 4s, down in the zone and stuff, it was a lot of fun."
His new coach, Peter Laviolette, certainly was impressed.
"To get him out there in that first group, to see a big body like that moving up and down the middle of the ice, I thought he looked terrific," Laviolette said. "His skating was great. You can tell that he came here and he wants to dig in and enjoy this, and the way he's working and the way he's fitting in with the guys, he's going to be a big piece for us this year. Getting him out there in the first practice was nice to see."
During line drills, Lecavalier skated in the middle, with Wayne Simmonds on his right wing. Prior to the start of camp, the guess was Lecavalier would center a second line with Simmonds on the right side and Brayden Schenn on the left.
"I thought he looked great," general manager Paul Holmgren said. "He was out there a lot with Wayne and the two of them seemed to have some chemistry right away. They both like to control the puck down low and they can move around. Maybe there's something there. I know he's excited. … He's still a real good player in our League and he's a big guy, hard to handle."
He certainly was all that and more in 14 seasons with the Lightning. The first pick of the 1998 NHL Draft, Lecavalier left Tampa Bay as the franchise's all-time leader in games played (1,037) and goals (383), and was second in assists (491) and points (874). He was the first-line center when the team won the 2004 Stanley Cup, represented the team in four NHL All-Star Games and won the Rocket Richard Trophy with 52 goals in 2006-07.
However, he said he's not out to prove anything to anyone. At 33 years old, Lecavalier believes he's still got a lot more to give.
"I don't want to prove the Lightning wrong," Lecavalier said. "It has nothing to do with that. I feel … the way I come into training camp is I want to prove something and help the team as much as I can. Prove to myself every year I want to get better. I think with the experience I have over the years … I'm 33 years old, but I don't feel old or anything like that. I feel great on the ice. I just want to produce and I want to help the team as much as I can in every aspect of the game, if it's offensively, defensively, in the locker room. I'll try to bring as much as I can."
And while he's doing it, he's going to enjoy all the good things about his new opportunity.
"I feel really good about it," Lecavalier said. "It's a change, but I feel really good being here."
Follow Adam Kimelman on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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