Steve Yzerman explains Lecavalier buyout to season ticket holders: ‘a pivotal move’

If you're a self-described "cap geek" (or just a regular visitor to Capgeek), you know why the Tampa Bay Lightning have opted to use a compliance buyout on Vincent Lecavalier. But if you're not closely tracking the contractual obligations of the Tampa Bay Lightning and the nuances of the new CBA, all you might know is that the club just chose to cut ties with their captain, a face of the franchise, a major community contributor, and the guy that led the Lightning to a Stanley Cup.

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That might be a touch bewildering. Maybe even off-putting. So Steve Yzerman chose to send a letter to the season ticketholders, explaining what the Lightning just did and why they did it. Here's the full thing:

I am writing to inform you that we have elected to "buy-out" the contract of Vincent Lecavalier today. Working under the parameters set forth in the new collective bargaining agreement (CBA), each National Hockey League team is permitted two "compliance buy-outs" over the next two years. We have elected to use one of these buyouts to better position ourselves to operate under this new CBA. In buying-out Vinny's contract we are creating approximately $7.7 million of salary cap space for each of the next seven seasons as his contract will no longer count against the team's cap.

The decision to part ways with Vinny was not made easily. In fact, it will cost the Lightning (and owner Jeff Vinik) nearly $32.7 million over the next 14 years. However, after much internal deliberation, we believe this will prove to be a pivotal move for us as we strive to achieve our long term goal of competing at the highest level year-in, year-out.

We will continue to have the ability to spend to the salary cap each season, but the "cap-hit" created by Vinny's contract is proving to be prohibitive as we model roster possibilities for 2013-14 and beyond. The economics and structure of the CBA are necessitating this decision, but we at the Lightning are excited at the newly-created opportunities this presents to us.

As we release Vinny of his obligation to play for the Tampa Bay Lightning, we acknowledge and thank him for his incredible accomplishments on and off the ice for the Lightning, our fans and the Tampa Bay community. Since being drafted in 1998, Vinny has been a significant reason for many of the Lightning's past successes, including the 2004 Stanley Cup, and his contributions to the people of Tampa Bay have been immeasurable. It was an honor for me personally to recognize him for 1,000 career games played with the Lightning this past season.

Vinny will always be considered a part of the Tampa Bay Lightning family and his legacy will be celebrated at every opportunity. In fact, we have already decided to honor him as a Lightning Community Hero at his first game back in the Tampa Bay Times Forum with his new team, recognizing him for his work with the Vinny Lecavalier Foundation. Please join with me in wishing Vinny all the best as he moves on to the next chapter in his playing career.

We appreciate your continued investment as a season ticket member and I remain steadfast in my optimism for our future. We are committed to building a franchise focused on draft and development; best positioning us for sustained long-term success. The upcoming NHL Entry Draft offers us an opportunity to add a significant piece to our core and we look forward to the start of training camp in September.

Thank you for your support.

Best Regards,

Steve Yzerman
Vice President and General Manager

In other words: It's the economy, stupid.

That Lightning Community Hero ceremony might be kind of awkward. "Hey, welcome back. Remember when we paid you to go away? Anyway, here's a plaque."

s/t to Raw Charge.

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