Back in 1998, the Tampa Bay Lightning held the 1st overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft. With that pick, the Lightning selected their new face of the franchise, Vincent Lecavalier.
Lecavalier was coming off 44 goal, 71 assist, 115 point season with the Rimouski Oceanic in the QMJHL. He made the jump to the NHL for the 1998-99 season, getting into all 82 games, scoring 13 goals and adding 15 assists for 28 points.
Fast forward to today. Vinny Lecavalier will play in his 1,000th NHL game this afternoon against the New York Islanders.
He’ll become the 280th NHL player to play 1,000 games, and the 49th NHL player to play 1,000 games all with the same team.
“It means a lot, it’s not something that I think about but it’s something that is very special once you are there,” Lecavalier said. “Next week family and friends are going to be (in Tampa during a ceremony), so that’s exciting. And to play for the same team for one-thousand games, that’s special.”
“It’s been quite a ride,” Lecavalier said. “It’s been about 90 percent great, and there have been a couple of tough years with the trade rumors and maybe we struggled a couple of years, but it’s been a great ride. I’m proud to be a part of this organization, to be on the same team for one-thousand games you never think that when you come into the league. You just go year-by-year and game-by-game, and now it’s a thousand in that same jersey . . . it definitely flies by.”
Lecavalier has scored 374 goals, recorded 470 assists for 844 career points (0.84 points per game). He also brought a bit of an edge to his, unafraid to drop the mitts if need be, racking up 717 penalty minutes.
Though the Lightning won a cup in 2003-04, they’ve struggled as a franchise on the whole, making the playoffs only six times in 13 seasons.
Injuries have cropped up the past two season, and he his production has declined, which is partly due to the emergence of Steven Stamkos. At 32 years old, he still have 8 years left on his monster contract. Before the 2009-10 season, the Lightning locked up Vinny to an 11 year, $85 million deal. His $7,727,273 salary cap hit is one of the highest in the game.
Despite being the rumor mill often over the years, his high salary cap number makes a deal difficult. Even more now with the salary cap going down next year. It’s likely that he’ll remain with the Lightning for years to come. It’s not very often that you see a player remain with the same team for so long nowadays, and it’s nice to see.