Vinny Lecavalier no longer plays for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Why, exactly, was the all-time franchise leader in games played at 1,037 and goals scored at 383 cut loose after 14 seasons? Well, it's not personal, it's just business.
Q: Why did the Lightning buy out Lecavalier's contract?
Answer: Next season, the salary cap in the NHL drops by $6 million, from $70 million last season to $64.3 million. Lecavalier's contract carried a $7.7 million annual salary cap cost through the end of the 2019-20 season. With cap space at a premium, Tampa Bay's front office, led by general manager Steve Yzerman, decided the Lightning could no longer afford Lecavalier's contract.
Q: Were there other factors?
Answer: The new collective bargaining agreement discourages teams from signing players to lengthy, front-loaded contracts - such as Lecavalier's - as a way of manipulating the salary cap. If Lecavalier retired before the end of his contract in 2020, the team would have incurred additional salary cap penalties.
Q: How does the buyout work?
Answer: Lecavalier had seven years and $45 million remaining on the 11-year, $85 million contract extension that went into effect in 2009. To buy him out, the Lightning must pay him two-thirds of the remaining value over twice the remaining years. Including bonuses, that amounts to $32 million over 14 years.
Q: Why now?
Answer: Buyouts are nothing new, but they always came with salary cap penalties. With an eye toward the shrinking salary cap for the 2013-14 season, the collective bargaining agreement signed in January allowed for amnesty buyouts. Each team can buy out the contracts of up to two players this summer or next without them counting against the salary cap.
Q: How much salary cap space does it free up?
Answer: About $7.7 million a year for the next seven years, or roughly $54 million total. That amount gives Yzerman flexibility moving forward to improve the roster and steer Tampa Bay back toward the playoffs.