The Tampa Bay Lightning have announced they will buy out the remainder of Vincent Lecavalier’s contract, making him an unrestricted free agent on July 5.

Lightning to buy out Vincent Lecavalier.

Lightning to buy out Vincent Lecavalier.

 SPECTOR’S NOTE: This isn’t a move the Lightning front office wants to make, but they really had no choice. Lecavalier’s contract (seven years remaining at a cap hit of over $7.727 million per season) was simply too restrictive for a club which had less than $3 million in available cap space and in dire need of improvement throughout the roster.

Under the rules of compliance buyout, it’ll cost two-third the remaining value over twice the remaining term, but it won’t count against the Bolts salary cap. Lecavalier also cannot re-sign with the Lighting for one full year from the date of his buyout.

It’s possible he could sign a one-year deal with another team and then return to Tampa Bay next summer, but I daresay interested teams will want a longer commitment from Lecavalier. Given his age, injury history and declining production, Lecavalier won’t get top dollar anymore, but he will attract considerable interest from teams seeking a second line center. Already, there’s early speculation linking him to the Montreal Canadiens and Detroit Red Wings.