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Lecavalier signs 11-year, $85-million extension with Lightning

Vinny Lecavalier’s extension runs through 2019-20, when he will be 40.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Vinny Lecavalier’s extension runs through 2019-20, when he will be 40.

Lightning vice president of hockey operations Brian Lawton had cautioned the numbers being talked about in reference to Vinny Lecavalier's contract extension were not accurate.

Lawton was proved right as Lecavalier signed an 11-year, $85-million deal that locks up the All-Star center through the 2019-20 season, when he will turn 40.

The original scuttlebutt was a nine-year, $77-million extension.

Whatever the numbers, owner Oren Koules was ecstatic.

"It's a huge day for this organization and this ownership group," he said late Saturday night.

"We've locked up a Hall of Fame player and the face of the franchise."

Said owner Len Barrie: "We're extremely excited."

An official announcement is expected Tuesday at the St. Pete Times Forum.

Lecavalier, 28, has one year left on a four-year, $27.4-million deal, meaning the extension begins in 2009-10. It is expected to pay $10-million in salary and bonuses for the first six seasons then gradually decrease to $1-million in the final season.

No matter the salaries of the final seasons, about $7.7-million will count toward the salary cap for all 11. The amount is determined by a deal's average salary.

"This has been something we talked about, and there has never been any hesitation on either side," Koules said. "It has been the easiest negotiation for both sides. This is an organization that absolutely wanted Vinny to be here forever.

"He wanted to know we were going to win. We talked about certain things. We feel we kept up our part of the bargain. He's very excited."

Neither Lecavalier nor his agent, Kent Hughes, could be reached for comment.

Lecavalier has been the face of the franchise since he was drafted No. 1 overall in 1998. He became one of the league's best players in 2006-07 with a league-best 52 goals.

His 40 goals last season made him the first Lightning player to score 40 in consecutive seasons. He also holds team records with 710 games, 602 points, 273 goals and 41 winners.

"Vinny Lecavalier is a tremendous hockey player but, more importantly, a tremendous person," Lawton said. "That's the kind of guy we're looking to move forward with in this organization for a long time."

"We're unbelievably proud," Koules said. "This is another step for this organization."

Mother of invention: Lawton said trading draft picks for negotiating rights before free agency was a necessity.

In a conversation with Koules and Barrie, Lawton recalled saying, " 'Demand is extremely high, and supply is extremely low, and that's not going to make for favorable shopping. So, if you guys are serious about adding assets, we'd better have a plan.'

"We came to a conclusion as a group; we have to get out there and do it early. We can't bid against the New York Rangers. We can't bid against the Vancouver Canucks. Our only avenue to secure people was to do it early."

The strategy worked with Vinny Prospal, Gary Roberts and Ryan Malone but not Brian Rolston, who signed with the Devils.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@sptimes.com.

Lecavalier signs 11-year, $85-million extension with Lightning 07/13/08 [Last modified: Sunday, July 13, 2008 9:51am]
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