TAMPA, Fla. – The Tampa Bay Lightning will use a compliance buyout on center Vincent Lecavalier, the team announced Thursday morning.
The buyout is allowed by the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement, and it means Lecavalier, a first overall selection by the Lightning in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, will become an unrestricted free agent on July 5, eligible to sign with any NHL franchise, except Tampa Bay.
Lecavalier will receive two-thirds of the remaining value of his existing 11-year, $85 million deal over twice the term of the deal. It eliminates Tampa Bay of a $7.727 million salary cap hit through the 2019-20 season.
“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,” Lightning vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman said in a statement. “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.
“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 CBA are necessitating this decision and we at the Lightning are excited at the newly created opportunities this presents to us.”
Lecavalier has played 14 seasons in Tampa Bay and has been part of a franchise-high 1,037 games. He also leads the Lightning with 383 goals, 112 power-play goals and 60 game-winning goals.
Lecavalier posted 12 consecutive seasons with 20 goals or more. He earned four NHL All-Star Game appearances and the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy as the league’s leading goals-scorer with 52 in 2006-07.
In 2008, he was awarded the King Clancy Memorial Trophy and the NHL Foundation Player Award for his community contributions. He formed the Vinny Lecavalier Foundation in 2003, which works to assist children battling pediatric cancer, and the Vincent Lecavalier Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorder Center at All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Fla., was opened in 2010.
For the Lightning, Lecavalier’s buyout costs $32.667 million over 14 years. That total consists of two-thirds of the $37 million he is owed over his contract’s last seven years, in addition to $8 million he has left in signing bonuses.
Lecavalier, 33, had 32 points with 22 assists in 39 games last season. He also had a minus-5 rating.
“It’s a process that you have to go through,” Lecavalier said in January about transitioning into a veteran. “I enjoyed it when I was young, and now I enjoy it the way it is now, too. When you’re a rookie, everything is new. You’re playing with your idols. I was playing with Wendel Clark and Stephane Richer and all these great players. Just to play with them was unbelievable. Dave Andreychuk, winning a Cup with him (in the 2003-04 season). For me, the whole thing has been a lot of fun.”