The Lightning shed payroll Tuesday by cutting ties with popular left wing Vinny Prospal.
Tampa Bay sent a letter to Prospal and his agent, Ritch Winter, stating the team's intention to buy out the remaining three years and $10.5 million on the contract.
Under the terms of the buyout, the team will pay two-thirds the remaining value spread out over double the length of the remaining years. Prospal will be paid $7 million at a rate of $1.167 million a year for six years, which is also how it will count against the team's salary cap.
The move will save the Lightning $2.33 million in actual salary per season during the next three years and could be a precursor for another move to bring in a top-six forward. Tampa Bay is considered to be among the teams interested in free-agent forward Alex Tanguay and has been tied to discussions with Petr Sykora.
"After fully evaluating our roster and our position in the salary cap world, we arrived at the decision to buy out Vaclav Prospal from his contract," Lightning general manager Brian Lawton said. "We appreciate Vinny's service to the Lightning, but in the best interest of the team, we believe a difficult decision needed to be made in this case and we are going to move ahead without him."
Prospal was traded to the Flyers at the trade deadline in February 2008, ending his second stint with the Lightning. He was re-acquired in June 2008 and signed a four-year deal worth $14 million. After a career-high 33 goals to go with 71 points in 2007-08 between Tampa Bay and Philadelphia, Prospal dropped to 19 goals and 45 points last season.
While there are reports the team explored moving Prospal, Winter said the Lightning never approached either him or Prospal about waiving his no-trade clause.
As recently as July 22, Prospal fielded questions from fans on the Lightning's official Web site about an offensive rebound next season. The news of the team's decision caught Prospal off guard, Winter said.
"It was a little bit of a surprise; he scored 33 goals a season ago," Winter said. "I'm not sure I share the views and reasoning of the team, but what can you do? Life is too short to analyze and break down every decision that you don't have any control over. You just accept it and move on."
While a team normally must place a player on waivers before the buyout takes affect, the player can decline the process and make the move immediate to grant unrestricted free agency, which Winter said Prospal elected.
"I would say being inundated with calls would be too strong, but certainly we are encouraged by the number of calls we have received already," Winter said.