After 14 seasons, the Vincent Lecavalier era has come to an end in Tampa Bay, as the Lightning announced his contract had been bought out on Thursday.
The Tampa Bay Lightning will use a compliance buy-out, as allowed by the NHL's Collective Bargaining Agreement, on center Vincent Lecavalier, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today. Lecavalier becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 5, eligible to sign with any team in the NHL, except Tampa Bay. The Lightning will pay Lecavalier two-thirds of the value of his existing contract over twice the term of the deal.
"Vinny has been a significant reason for many of our past successes, including the 2004 Stanley Cup, and his contributions to the community are immeasurable," said Yzerman upon announcing the buyout. "The Lightning organization is indebted to Vinny; we thank him for all he has done here and we wish him well as he moves forward.
Pierre LeBrun of ESPN has more on the financial implications of the buyout:
Further to @RenLavoieRDS, the buyout on Lecavalier will cost Tampa a total of $32.67 million— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) June 27, 2013
There's an $8 M bonus that had to be paid out in full. The rest of the salary gets paid 2/3 over next 14 years, just north of $24 million— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) June 27, 2013
In his 14 seasons with the Lightning, Lecavalier scored 383 goals and added 491 assists. He scored 20 or more goals 12 times, 30 or more goals five times and a whopping 52 goals in 2006-07, the most in the NHL that year.
He made four All-Star Game appearances and ends his Tampa Bay career as the franchise leader in goals scored, power-play goals (112) and games played (1,037).
He spent his entire career in Tampa Bay after being the top overall pick in the 1998 draft. But after seeing his production begin to wane over the past three years—and the fact that he's both 33 years of age and still has seven years left on his contract—it's hardly shocking the Lightning decided to buy out his contract.
Essentially, the move allows the team to completely wipe away his cap hit, even if he is still owed the money remaining on his contract. He is now free to sign with any other team in the NHL.
It may not be popular with many fans, who have come to love Lecavalier over the years, but getting out from his big cap hit and seven-year contract is a smart business move. It would be surprising if Lecavalier didn't quickly find several suitors on the market, as he is still a productive player.