Lightning, Lecavalier close to nine-year deal

Vinny Lecavalier could have become a free agent after the upcoming season.

Vinny Lecavalier could have become a free agent after the upcoming season.

The Lightning and superstar center Vinny Lecavalier apparently are working toward a nine-year, $77-million contract extension.

The terms were first reported by Canada's TSN, and while no one in Tampa Bay's front office confirmed, no one denied it, either. Neither did Lecavalier's agent, Kent Hughes.

But Hughes said there are "issues to be worked out" that could change the bottom line.

"I'm not commenting on the numbers," Hughes said, adding, "The deal is not complete. I'm confident we'll get something done. But the suggestion this is in a drawer waiting to be registered is inaccurate."

Players can sign extensions beginning Tuesday. Even though owner Len Barrie said, "We're close to getting something done," it is not believed Lecavalier's deal will be ready that quickly.

TSN reported the final year of the deal, 2017-18, when Lecavalier is 38, is for $3-million, indicating a sliding scale as Lecavalier ages. The cap hit (the average annual salary) is $8.5-million.

"A brilliant move by ownership," Red Wings senior vice president Jimmy Devellano said of locking up Lecavalier. "He's not the kind of kid you want to go into unrestricted free agency because you might find there are 29 other suitors."

Lecavalier, 28, has one year left on a four-year, $27.4-million deal. Mike Brophy, senior writer at the Hockey News, said next season's yearbook will rank Lecavalier the NHL's fifth-best player.

"If that means anything," Brophy said, "he's worth the money."

Lecavalier, the first Lightning player with two 40-goal seasons, has 92 goals in the past two, including a league-best 52 in 2006-07. Drafted No. 1 overall in 1998, he has franchise records of 710 games, 602 points, 273 goals and 41 winners.

Devellano said the signing will be a big boost to OK Hockey, the team's new ownership group, as it tries to gain legitimacy with fans:

"What they're telling the people is, 'Hey, look, this is our guy. We had a tough year, but we're trying to fight our way back.' That's the message. A terrific move. Take your hat off to them."

As for concerns about Lecavalier's age by contract's end, Brophy said, "There's always a risk. … At the same time, Vinny seems to be a very dedicated, well-conditioned athlete, and he plays with passion. I don't view Vinny as a player who gets his money and goes into semiretirement."

"It's a great investment," former Tampa Bay coach Jacques Demers said. "Ownership has proven they are willing to do what they have to do to win. That has to start with Vinny. He's the franchise, and I hope they finally, once and for all, name him captain of that team."

Lightning, Lecavalier close to nine-year deal 06/25/08 [Last modified: Thursday, June 26, 2008 6:52pm]

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