EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Vinny Lecavalier intends to retire this summer, ending his 17-year NHL career after a revitalizing half-season with the Kings.
Lecavalier confirmed his long-stated plans Sunday as the Kings left their training complex. Their season ended Friday with a five-game loss to the Sharks in the first round of the playoffs.
"It's the same plan since I first got here a few months ago," Lecavalier said. "Obviously we didn't get to go where we wanted to go at the end of it, but to get a chance to play and to have fun and to learn is just a great time."
The 36-year-old forward scored 949 points and won the Stanley Cup in 2004 with the Lightning during a career that began with the Tampa Bay, which made him the No. 1 overall pick in the 1998 draft and named him its captain twice. After the Lightning bought out his contract in the summer of 2013, Lecavalier signed with the Flyers but struggled mightily. He eventually spent long stretches as a healthy scratch, and he decided to retire early in the season.
"Back in November, I was (thinking), 'I think I'm going to be stuck here,' " Lecavalier said.
Instead, he agreed to a trade in January to the Kings, who offered him playing time on a contending team. He had 10 goals and seven assists in 42 games while playing a valuable two-way role.
"I always had that confidence deep down that I could still do well, so it was great," Lecavalier said. "It was a great team, and I know they're going to win again, just by the way they act and by the leadership group and the talent they have."
He excelled as the Kings' third-line center, fitting in well with the veteran team's defense-first mind-set. But general manager Dean Lombardi said the Kings were able to fit Lecavalier under their salary cap only because of his plans to retire this summer, making a return next season problematic.
Lecavalier, a Montreal-area native, expects to settle back in Tampa with his wife, Caroline, and three young children, likely soon after his oldest child — Victoria, 5 — finishes the school year in Los Angeles. He has no firm plans beyond parenthood for life after hockey but is interested in boosting the sport in Florida.
"To be honest, there are probably 10 guys from when we won the Cup that are (in Tampa) now," he said. "I think they're growing the game … growing that youth hockey, and I think that's important.
"You've got to have good programs for the kids to get better, and they do a great job, and I'm obviously going to try to help in Tampa, for sure."
Lecavalier has another tie to the Tampa Bay area: He helped establish the Vincent Lecavalier Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorders Center at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg with a $3 million commitment in 2007 through his charitable foundation.