The Tampa Bay Lightning released a statement saying that they have bought out the contract of captain Vinny Lecavalier.

As a result, Lecavalier becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 5, and is eligible to sign with any NHL except for the Lightning. The team will pay Lecavalier two-thirds of the value of his existing contract over twice the term of the deal.

Taken by the Lightning with the first overall pick in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, he is the franchise’s all-time leader for games played with 1,037, goals with 383, power play goals with 112 and game-winning goals with 60.

A member of the team for 14 seasons, Lecavalier posted 12 consecutive seasons with 20 goals or more, appeared in four NHL All-Star games, won the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy as the league’s leading goal-scorer with 52 in 2006-07, and served as alternate captain in 2004 when the Lightning won their first and only Stanley Cup.

The NHL has recognized Lecavalier for his charitable work awarding him the King Clancy Memorial Trophy and the NHL Foundation Player Award in 2008. He also formed the Vinny Lecavalier Foundation in 2003, eventually opening the Vincent Lecavalier Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorder Center at All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg in 2010.


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