Lightning will use compliance buyout on Vinny Lecavalier

27

June

The Lightning will use it's compliance buyout on captain Vinny Lecavalier, ending a relationship with the player who has been an iconic community figure since he was the No. 1 overall pick of the 1998 draft.

The buyout price is $32.667 million over 14 years, or $1.76 million per year. That breaks down to two-thirds of the $37 million Lecavalier is owed on the final seven years of his contract ($24.667 million) plus the $8 million he still has remaining in signing bonuses.

Lecavalier becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 5, free to sign with any team. He does not have to clear unconditional waivers because he has a no-move clause in his contract.

"Listen, we're going to sit down and have conversations and start looking through various teams with possible needs, fits," Lecavalier's agent Kent Hughes said. "He's got a young family. He's got to go through hockey-wise what fits and family-wise and make a decision."

The Lightning is not only losing a player, but part of its history.

Lecavalier leads the franchise with 1.037 games, 383 goals and 60 winners. He was the franchise's first 50-goal scorer and was one of the stars of the 2003-04 Stanley Cup run. His fight with Calgary's Jarome Iginla in Game 3 was a flashpoint of the final series which ended with a 2-1 Game 7 win in which Lecavalier assisted on both of Ruslan Fedotenko's goals. And it would be tough to forget his between-the-legs goal against the Canadiens in the East semifinals.

Lecavalier in 2007, though his charitable foundation, also donated $3 million to help establish the Vincent Lecavalier Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorders Center at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg.

He has always said he wanted to play his entire career with the Lightning.

On the ice, the move is a two-edged sword for the team.

On the plus side for the Lightning, it is out from under Lecavalier's 11-year, $85 million deal, which had seven years and $45 million remaining and carried a $7.727 million salary cap hit. That was an enormous burden for a team that had more than $60 million in cap commitments for 2013-14 and up to five roster spots to fill.

The move also relieves Tampa Bay of potential substantial penalties under the new collective bargaining agreement's salary cap recapture rules that would have hit the team if Lecavalier retired before the end of his contract. The Lightning is in that position because Lecavalier's salaries in eight of the 11 years of his contract were more than his salary cap hit. That advantage would be punished if Lecavalier did not fulfill his deal.

The negative is the Lightning now has a huge hole in its lineup. Lecavalier, 33, is still almost a point-a-game player. He won 55 percent of his faceoff last season and he plays against some of the bigger opposing bodies, which creates space for his linemates.

General manager Steve Yzerman said he does not have a way, as yet, a way to fill that spot. In fact, Yzerman admittedd the team, in the short term, may be worse on the ice because of the move.

"That's a possibility," Yzerman said, and added, "If we're going to take a step backwards, let's take a step backwards today and start the process of going forward and continue reorganizaing and rebuilding this team and go from there."

How will he do that?

"We'll look at free agency. We'll look at the draft," Yzerman said. "We'll look at trades. We'll look at the potential free agent market."

Still, Yzerman admitted, "I do not have a solution for anyone today."

And he does not have plans this summer, he said, to use the second compliance buyout available to all teams.

Some potential solutions are former Lightning center Brad Richards, who might be bought out by the Rangers, and potential unrestricted free agent centers Tyler Bozak and Valtteri Filppula.

Whatever happens going forward, Lightning center Nate Thompson said it will be odd not seeing Lecavalier in the locker room.

"Absolutely," he said. "To look to my right and not see Vinny Lecavalier there, it will be strange. Just his presence in the locker room, on the ice, it's going to be an adjustment. Whoever does get him, they're going to get a great hockey player and an even better guy."

Here's the announcement from the team about Lecavalier's buyout:

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.

“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 was a first overall selection by the Lightning in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft.  He is the Tampa Bay’s all-time leader for games played with 1,037, goals with 383, power play goals with 112 and game-winning goals with 60.  Lecavalier played 14 seasons in Tampa Bay, posting 12 consecutive seasons with 20 goals or more, four NHL All-Star appearances and a Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy as the league’s leading goal-scorer (52 in 2006-07). He served as an alternate captain in 2004 when the Lightning won the franchise’s first and only Stanley Cup.  The NHL also recognized Lecavalier for his community contributions with the King Clancy Memorial Trophy and the NHL Foundation Player Award in 2008.  He formed the Vinny Lecavalier Foundation in 2003, eventually opening the Vincent Lecavalier Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorder Center at All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg in 2010.

[Last modified: Thursday, June 27, 2013 2:53pm]

    

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