The Tampa Bay Lightning will say goodbye to captain and all-time scoring leader Vinny Lecavlier.
The Lightning announced Thursday that they will buy out the remaining portion of the center's contract.
"Vinny has been a significant reason for many of our past successes, including the 2004 Stanley Cup, and his contributions to the community are immeasurable," Tampa general manager Steve Yzerman said in a statement. "The Lightning organization is indebted to Vinny; we thank him for all he has done here and we wish him well as he moves forward."
Lecavlier, 33, has seven years and $45 million left on his deal, with a reported annual value of $7.73 million. By using the buy-out, the club eliminates the contract's hit to their salary cap and must pay two-thirds of its existing value across twice the term of the contract -- or $24.67 million over 14 years. Lecavlier's deal also includes an $8 million bonus that must be paid in full.
Lecavlier can sign with any team except Tampa Bay on July 5.
"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," Yzerman said. "The economics and structure of the CBA are necessitating this decision and we at the Lightning are excited at the newly created opportunities this presents to us."
Lecavlier was the first overall pick 1998 NHL Entry Draft, and played his entire career with the Lightning. He's the franchise's all-time leader in games played (1,037), goals (383), power-play goals (112) and game-winning goals (60). In his 14-year career seasons, he posted at least 20 goals in 12 straight years.
He led the league in scoring with 52 in 2006-07.
Regardless of who eventually replaces the Lecavlier in the lineup and locker room, center Nate Thompson told the Tampa Bay Times that it will be odd without the popular player.
"To look to my right and not see Vinny Lecavalier there, it will be strange," Thompson told the paper. "Just his presence in the locker room, on the ice, it's going to be an adjustment. Whoever does get him, they're going to get a great hockey player and an even better guy."
The Lightning also re-signed forward Mike Angelidis to a one-year, two-way contract. He played in 71 regular-season games with the Syracuse Crunch last season, scoring 11 goals.
The 28-year-old made his NHL debut Jan. 24, 2012, and scored his first career goal in that game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.