Lecavalier's agent on buyout chance: 'We understand it's something they might be contemplating'
When the Blackhawks on Monday claimed the Stanley Cup with a Game 6 victory over the Bruins, it was important to note the time -- 11 p.m. eastern -- because the compliance buyout period was set to begin 48 hours later.
So, mark it down. From 11 p.m. Wednesday through 5 p.m. July 4, teams can buy out up to two contracts without it counting against the salary cap. The provision is to help teams manage the $64.3 million cap for 2013-14, down from $70.2 million last season.
For the Lightning, the focus seems to be on captain Vinny Lecavalier and left wing Ryan Malone.
Malone and Lecavalier's agent, Kent Hughes, said on Tuesday that they had not heard anything from the team regarding a buyout. But Hughes said, "We understand it's something they might be contemplating. It would be natural to do so."
Added Malone: "It occupies zero of my thoughts. I have no control over it. If they want to buy me out, there's nothing I can do. I would try to prove them wrong. It is what it is."
With more than $60 million in salary cap commitments for 2013-14 and up to five roster spots to fill, Tampa Bay could certainly use the cap relief. Buying out Lecavalier (with seven years, $45 million left on his deal and a $7.727 annual cap hit) and/or the oft-injured Malone (with two, years, $5 million left on his contract and a $4.5 million annual cap hit) certainly would create that.
In Lecavalier's case, it also would relieve Tampa Bay (if Lecavalier retires before the end of his deal) of potential significant penalties under the new salary cap recapture rule. That rule is the league's attempt to limit long-term, front-loaded contracts, such as Lecavalier's 11-year, $85 million deal, set up to provide salary cap relief. There would be no penalties if the contract was fulfilled.
But buyouts are not cheap, costing two-thirds of a player's remaining salary over double the remaining years. Buying out Lecavalier would cost $30 million over 14 years. Buying out Malone would cost $3.35 million over four years.
That's a lot of money for owner Jeff Vinik to swallow and it would require Vinik, especially in Lecavalier's case, to sign off on the notion Tampa Bay in the short term might not be better for it. Losing Lecavalier, 33, still a productive player, would create a huge whole at center that might or might not be filled over the summer. Long-term, though, buying out Lecavalier would create $54 million in cap space over seven years.
"We understand this is a difficult contract in a difficult cap environment," Hughes said of Lecavalier's deal, "and we recognize (a buyout) is within the club's right. One way or another there will be clarity in the next seven to nine days."