Lecavalier paid bonus amid speculation

Updated: January 15, 2009, 4:44 PM ET
By Pierre LeBrun | ESPN.com

Another day, another twist in the Vincent Lecavalier saga.

The Tampa Bay Lightning confirmed Thursday they had indeed paid the star center a $500,000 bonus that was due to him by Jan. 15. A report in French newspaper La Presse in Montreal on Wednesday had suggested the payment was in jeopardy.
Vincent Lecavalier
Lecavalier
"Yes, Vinny was paid his bonus today on schedule, just as all our other players were paid according to their contracts and the provisions of the CBA," Lightning GM Brian Lawton said in a statement to ESPN.com provided by the team.

It was the latest in a series of reports that called into question the financial stability of the Lightning. The team's fiscal picture actually took a turn for the better last week in New York after a meeting with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, where its loan with Palace Sports and Entertainment, the main lenders in the sale of the team to Len Barrie and Oren Koules, was restructured.

The NHL club has repeatedly tried to tell media outlets during the last week that its finances are fine.

"It's time to stop this foolishness, the team is on solid financial ground and it will continue to operate that way," Lawton said. "Nobody needs to worry about whether our players are going to be paid or not. It's foolish and it's irresponsible to report anything different."

The Lecavalier trade rumors began in earnest in the past week, in large part because of the rumors surrounding the team's financial picture. Lecavalier's $85 million, 11-year contract extension kicks in next season.

Will the team be forced to move Lecavalier for financial reasons alone?

"I think that's a fair comment for people to say, but it's not true," Lawton told reporters in Tampa on Thursday. "We signed [Lecavalier] with the intent of keeping him here. We'd like to see the economy pick up. We'd like to see our team do better. As far as where we are today, we signed him with the intent to keep him here."

Lawton has repeatedly stated this week that the team was not shopping Lecavalier, although multiple sources confirmed to ESPN.com that teams have indeed called about him, including the Montreal Canadiens.

For now everything is in a holding pattern. Lecavalier's no-trade clause doesn't come into effect until July 1, although Lawton has promised the Lecavalier camp, including Lecavalier's agent, Kent Hughes, that if a trade offer should ever merit serious consideration, the team would first discuss it with the player.

"Obviously with Vinny Lecavalier's situation, there has been a lot of speculation floating around -- completely unfounded, I might add, just for the record," Lawton told reporters. "Vinny Lecavalier is not being shopped by the Tampa Bay Lightning. It would be erroneous of me to say that people haven't called me on Vinny Lecavalier because they certainly have, and that has started literally from the day that I took this position. Why would something like that happen? Because he's a great player."

Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com.