If Jeff Vinik's purchase of the Tampa Bay Lightning goes through, super star forward Vincent Lecavalier could be headed out of town. Vinik reportedly believes that he would need to shed Lecavalier's $85 million contract to make the organization practical.
That's totally understandable, especially when you consider the fact that he's under contract until 2020. Yes, 2020. The real nugget though, is that the Lightning could potentially trade Lecavalier before Vinik's purchase is even complete.
It’s believed that if the deal is made, it will be done before Vinik takes over the team so the new owner can be insulated from the inevitable backlash that would come from dealing the franchise player.
John Fontana over at SB Nation's Lightning blog, Raw Charge, isn't too keen on this idea. As he chronicled on his site the other day, it reeks of a similar situation that Bolts fans suffered through back in the late 90s.
This kind of twisted logic -- make the player movement for the numbers to work in a sale -- reminds me of another episode in the Lightning's past. Long-time Lightning fans might recall the tale of the the Maloof family.
They were a safe bet for approval from the NHL as owners in 1997, even with their casino ties. Japanese ownership was desperate to rid themselves of the team, and the Maloofs looked like willing sale partners...
The Maloofs started having a say in team interests and actions, and what did they do to the Bolts? They influenced the course of the 1997 off-season (the draft and the direction of the team in free agency) which led directly to the Lightning's on-ice product falling on hard times for the next five seasons.
And you know what was the worst part of it? They didn't even buy the Lightning. They walked away and left the ruins of their fickle intentions for others to deal with, and for the fans to suffer.
Vinik may not walk in, have his way with things and then not even purchase the team like the Maloofs did. But it does appear that he will lower the payroll of the team, which would of course drastically effect their chances at icing a successful hockey team.
The Lightning were most successful revenue-wise in 2004 when they won the Stanley Cup, and it's obvious that wins lead to fans and fans lead to dollars, especially in a market like Tampa. Because of that, the franchise may suffer as a consequence of the very actions that Vinik hopes will make them successful.