Earlier this week, the Tampa Bay Lightning announced that they had bought out the contract of their captain Vincent Lecavalier using one of their two compliance buyouts. As a result, the four-time All-Star who spent 14 seasons with the Lightning will become an unrestricted free agent.
Under the buyout rules, the 2004 Stanley Cup winner will receive two-thirds the value of his existing deal spread over twice the term of the contract.
The buyout will cost more than $32 million over 14 years to the Lightning, Lecavalier receiving $4,671,905 for the next two seasons and then a lower amount every year until 2026-27. The 33-year-old Montreal native 10 goals and 22 assists for 32 points in 39 games during the lockout-shortened season. In 1,037 games with the Bolt, Lecavalier scored 383 goals and 491 assists for 874 points with a -117 +/- ratio.
Lecavalier, who led the NHL with 52 goals during the 2006-07 season, will be once of the most sought-after free agents on July 5th along with the likes of Nathan Horton, Daniel Briere and Jarome Iginla, to name a few.
More than 12 teams have contacted Lecavalier's agent to show their interest, and among them are the Montreal Canadiens according to a source close to the team. Habs general manager Marc Bergevin already made his offer to Lecavalier's clan and now the ball is in Vinny's court. Bergevin really likes the 6'4'', 220-lb, pivot and he made sure the offer was very enticing.
While I don't have the exact numbers, it is believed that Lecavalier is looking for a multi-year deal (4 or 5 years) worth close to $5 million annually. If the Canadiens manages to sign him, expect the organization to trade one of the team's centermen to make room in the line-up and on the payroll. As I wrote in my previous article, Bergevin is dangling David Desharnais who is easier to move at $3.5M/year than Tomas Plekanec at $5M with a no-trade clause.
Expect the Canadiens to be very active today at the draft and the rest of the week leading to free agency next Friday.