By John Vogl
The first few NHL buyouts were expected. Scott Gomez, Wade Redden, Daniel Briere and Ilya Bryzgalov could see the farewells coming.
This morning, the Tampa Bay Lightning sent another big name packing, and it was more of a surprise. Tampa has elected to use a compliance buyout on Vincent Lecavalier, the captain who's been with the team since being drafted first overall in 1998.
"Vinny has been a significant reason for many of our past successes, including the 2004 Stanley Cup, and his contributions to the community are immeasurable," team President Steve Yzerman said in a statement. "The Lightning organization is indebted to Vinny; we thank him for all he has done here and we wish him well as he moves forward.
"After much internal deliberation, we believe this will prove to be a pivotal move for us as we strive to achieve our long term goal of competing at the highest level, year-in, year-out. The economics and structure of the CBA are necessitating this decision and we at the Lightning are excited at the newly created opportunities this presents to us."
The buyout cost ranges from $30 million to $32.67 million, according to reports. Lecavalier just finished the fourth season of an 11-year, $85 million. He has already earned $40 million in salary, which coupled with the buyout means he made at least $70 million for four seasons.
The 33-year-old becomes an unrestricted free agent.
Each team is allowed two compliance buyouts during this season and next, and the period opened at 11 p.m. Wednesday. It runs until July 4.