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Ex-Lightning great Lecavalier still set to retire

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.

Lecavalier career highlights (and one lowlight):

• Drafted first overall by the Lightning in 1998. Then-owner Art Williams said the 18-year-old would become "the Michael Jordan of hockey."

• At 19 became the youngest full-time captain in NHL history to date when given the job March 11, 2000, by then-coach Steve Ludzik. Had the C taken away before the 2001-02 season, when the organization deemed him not ready; move was part of a rift between Lecavalier and then-coach John Tortorella. Was named captain again in September 2008 and kept the C until the Lightning bought out his contract in summer 2013.

• Won the 2004 Stanley Cup with the Lightning, assisting on both of Ruslan Fedotenko's goals in a 2-1 Game 7 win against the Flames in the final.

• Won the Rocket Richard Trophy as the NHL's top goal-scorer in the 2006-07 season with 52 goals (108 points).

• Lightning's career leader in goals (383) and games (1,037), second in points (874) to Marty St. Louis.

• Four-time All-Star with 13 20-goal seasons.

• After the past three seasons with the Flyers and Kings, he finishes with 949 points, 421 goals in 1,212 regular-season games. (Complete stats, 2C)

Ex-Lightning great Lecavalier still set to retire 04/24/16 [Last modified: Monday, April 25, 2016 12:25am]
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