Vinny Lecavalier leaves the Tampa Bay Lightning without regret. His 15 years with the Lightning is filled with crowning moments. It all started on June 27, 1998.
At the age of 18, Lecavalier arrived in Tampa Bay as the NHL's version of Michael Jordan -- A franchise pick expected to carry the club out of the NHL's cellar all the way to the Stanley Cup.
"I've never played against guys in the NHL," said Lecavalier at his first news conference. "I'll work hard and see what happens."
What happened was a rocky start. Lecavalier struggled to live up to the hype. After his second season, Vinny was named captain, becoming the youngest player to wear a "C" in NHL history. He was stripped of that honor a year later when the Lightning -- under John Tortorella -- felt he was too young to handle the title.
A consistent 20-goal scorer over his first four seasons, Lecavalier elevated his game in 2002, leading the Lightning to their first playoff series .
A year later, Vinny skated the Lightning all the way to the Stanley Cup finals and raised the team's Cup with an electrifying seven-game series win over Calgary.
A labor dispute cost the Lightning the chance to capitalize on their title as the entire 2004 season was lost. The Lightning never found that Stanley Cup magic again. But in 2007, Lecavalier finally reached the level expected of him when he won the Rockett Richard trophy, given to the league's top goal scorer.
Injuries followed, but in 2008, new ownership handed Lecavalier the largest contract ever given a player in Tampa Bay sports history -- a mega 11-year deal worth $85 million.
"It's obviously a very big amount," said Lecavalier with a big smile.
Despite a long-term deal, rumors of a trade swirled around Lecavalier that he would be dealt to his hometown team of Montreal.
He played through all of the speculation and was honored in 2013 for his 1,000 game.
Now, six months later, the Lightning buy out the remaining six years of his contract at cost of nearly $33-million. The Lightning's all-time leading scorer ends a well-decorated 15-year run, the longest in franchise history.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
Didn't find what you were looking for?