Just three days before the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, the Tampa Bay Lightning made an even bigger decision by opting to use a compliance buyout on one of the faces of the franchise, Vincent Lecavalier. The Lightning will retain two-thirds of his salary, but open up his $7.73 million cap hit in a surprising move by the front office.
As reported by the Lightning’s website, Lecavalier becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 5 and can sign with any team in the league except the Lightning. The end of an his era in Tampa Bay was obviously a difficult decision for general manager Steve Yzerman (via lightning.nhl.com):
After much internal deliberation, we believe this will prove to be a pivotal move for us as we strive to achieve our long term goal of competing at the highest level, year-in, year-out. The economics and structure of the collective-bargaining agreement are necessitating this decision and we at the Lightning are excited at the newly created opportunities this presents to us.
Lecavalier’s tenure was one of the most decorated in franchise history. He was honored last season for playing in his 1,000th game as a Bolt. He also has 874 points and a Stanley Cup with the franchise.
Not only does he leave behind a void at center, but the captaincy, which he has held since 2008. That title should go to rising superstar Steven Stamkos, but time will tell.
By taking the contract off the books, the Lightning now have the opportunity to not only draft, but sign some key pieces this offseason. With the salary cap restrictions causing headaches for GMs around the league, there should be some big names on the market this offseason.
Capgeek.com shows that the Lightning have around $54.1 million in salary payroll currently without Lecavalier’s contract on the books. More importantly, they have $10.1 million in cap space.
Was this the right move for the Bolts?
As the Lightning move forward as a franchise, the impact that Lecavalier has had on the team and the community cannot be overlooked. Despite his recent injury issues and slowing production, Lightning fans can and should always appreciate what he has done for the franchise.
Continuing his statement on the team's official website, Yzerman said:
"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."