National Hockey League

Lightning to buy out Lecavalier

Tampa, FL (Sports Network) - The face of the Tampa Bay Lightning is gone.

Vincent Lecavalier, the first overall pick of the 1998 draft and the Lightning's all-time leader in games and goals, will become a free agent on July 5 after the team decided to use a compliance buyout on veteran's contract.

Lecavalier was under contract through the 2019-20 season, part of an 11-year deal he signed back in 2008. Under the new collective bargaining agreement, the Lightning will still be responsible for paying two-thirds of the existing value -- reported to be $7.73 million per year -- over twice the term of the deal.

"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," said Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman in a statement Thursday. "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."

Lecavalier has 383 goals and 874 points in 1,037 regular-season games. He scored just 10 goals and added 22 assists for 33 points in 39 games during the shortened 2013 season.

The 33-year-old Quebec native played 14 seasons for the Lightning and helped the team to its lone Stanley Cup title in the spring of 2004. He earned four NHL All-Star Game appearances and won the Richard Trophy as the league's top goal scorer with 52 in 2006-07.

"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," added Yzerman. "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."

Lecavalier will be eligible to sign with any team, other than the Lightning, this summer.

06/27 09:57:19 ET

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