Lecavalier had seven-years remaining on an 11-year, $85 million contract that carried an annual average value of $7.7 million against the salary cap. Per the rules of the collective bargaining agreement, Tampa Bay will pay Lecavalier two-thirds of the value of his existing contract over twice the term of the deal. That means he will be paid a total of $32.667 million over the next 14 years, which amounts to an annual payment of $1.76 million.
Due to the declining nature of the salary cap to $64.3 million for the 2013-14 season, all teams were allotted two buyouts to clear contracts off their books without penalty. In addition, the buyouts act as a not-so-free get out of jail card given the implementation of the cap benefit recapture rule, which punishes teams who signed players to front- or back-loaded deals in an attempt to circumvent the salary cap by lowering the annual average value of a player's contract.
This was the case with Lecavalier, as his contract was scheduled to pay him $10 million per season over the first seven years of the contract before declining to $8.5 million in 2016-17, $4 million in 2017-18, $1.5 million in 2018-19 and $1 million in the final year of his deal. In essence, the final years of his contract were artificial in nature in order to lower the annual average value of his contract.
Had Lecavalier been unable to complete the entirety of the deal, Tampa Bay could have faced severe penalties, which could have crippled their cap flexibility. General manager Steve Yzerman made it clear that this was the impetus for the decision to extend Lecavalier the buyout, via the team's press release:
"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. 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."
Lecavalier will become an unrestricted free agent on July 5. He can not re-sign with the Lightning this summer. Tampa Bay now has $10 million in cap space to work with.