For Brian Lawton, the most notable aspect of Vinny Lecavalier's 11-year, $85-million contract extension is not the money or the length.
Most striking, Lawton said, is Lecavalier's "no-move" clause, which gives the All-Star center power to veto any transaction, even being put on waivers.
"It is not something you give out lightly," the Lightning's vice president of hockey operations said Sunday.
"There are only a few very special players that command that kind of control."
Lecavalier will make $10-million in the first seven years of the deal that begins with the 2009-10 season and runs through 2019-20, when Lecavalier will be 40.
He will make $8.5-million in Year 8, $4-million in Year 9, $1.5-million in Year 10 and $1-million in Year 11. An $11-million signing bonus is spread through the length of the contract. Regardless of how much he makes in a season, his salary cap hit (the average salary) will be $7.7-million.
As of now, Lecavalier will be the league's highest-paid player in 2009-10. The $85-million commitment is fourth largest in league history behind the $124-million the Capitals gave Alex Ovechkin in January, the $88-million they gave Jaromir Jagr in 2001 and the $87.5-million the Islanders gave Alexei Yashin in 2001.
But agent Kent Hughes said Lecavalier's contract was not only about money. If it was, Hughes said, his client could have hit the open market July 1, 2009, at the end of his current four-year, $27.4-million deal, and likely signed for more.
"But he wanted to stay in Tampa," Hughes said. "He wanted to stay and finish his career in Tampa and play in a community that has become home for him."
"It feels really good," Lecavalier said. "I'm really happy. I always said I wanted to be here for my whole career. I've had 10 great years here. I want to do 11 more. I'm proud to be part of this."
Lecavalier, 28, has been the face of the franchise since he was drafted No. 1 overall in 1998. His league-high 52 goals in 2006-07 earned him the Rocket Richard Trophy. His 40 goals in 2007-08 made him the only Lightning player to score 40 in consecutive seasons. The three-time All-Star has team records of 710 games, 602 points, 273 goals and 41 winners.
Even so, Lecavalier, who will make $7.167-million in the upcoming season, said it was important to know the new owners wanted to fix the problems that sent the team crashing last season to the bottom of the league.
Hughes said Lecavalier "did not get involved in the due diligence" of whom Tampa Bay should sign. But after the team spent $72-million on the first day of free agency, Lecavalier didn't need much more convincing.
"I believe in them," he said of owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie and added the team can be an immediate contender.
"I truly believe with all these new acquisitions and our young D getting more experience and (Mike Smith) and (Olie) Kolzig in net, it's definitely exciting," Lecavalier said. "I really believe we can compete quickly."
It will help if Lecavalier, as he says he is, stays on schedule rehabbing from right shoulder surgery. He said he expects to be ready for training camp, though it is unclear when he will be cleared for full contact.
For now, coach Barry Melrose said, "It's great to know there's stability in the organization. We locked up one of the best three or four players in the world."
Whose current contract, by the way, does not have a no-trade clause.
Not to worry, Lawton said: "He's here for the rest of his career."
Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected]