Los Angeles Kings forward Vincent Lecavalier, who spent his first 14 years with the Tampa Bay Lightning, formally retired Tuesday after 17 NHL seasons.
When he joined the Kings in January, Lecavalier declared the 2015-16 season would be his last. He confirmed his retirement intentions after Los Angeles was eliminated from the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs in April, putting an early end to Lecavalier’s revitalizing tenure with the Kings.
“Hockey has provided me so much in my lifetime, but requires an incredible commitment,” Lecavalier said in a statement. “It is now time for me to devote more time to my family.”
The 36-year-old Lecavalier spent his first 14 NHL seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning, winning the Stanley Cup in 2004. He had a dispiriting 2 1/2-year stretch in Philadelphia, frequently sitting as a healthy scratch, before joining the Kings in a trade.
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Lecavalier profusely thanked the Lightning and the Kings in his retirement announcement, but didn’t mention the Flyers.
Lecavalier was revitalized as a third-line center in Los Angeles, getting 10 goals and seven assists in 42 games while thriving in the Kings’ defensive brand of hockey. He showed his skills hadn’t disappeared while filling a major role for the Kings, but their season ended after just five playoff games against San Jose.
General manager Dean Lombardi has said that the salary cap-strapped Kings could only acquire Lecavalier because of the forward’s stated intention to retire. While Lecavalier showed he could still play, he embraced the chance to go out on his own terms.
“Hockey is the greatest team sport in the world,” Lecavalier said. “There is nothing like sharing a locker room with your teammates and competing together day in and day out. I have made lifelong friends, and I’d like to thank them for making this an unforgettable journey.”
Lecavalier was the No. 1 pick in the 1998 draft by Tampa Bay, and he won the Richard Trophy as the NHL’s top goal-scorer while racking up a career-high 108 points during the 2006-07 season. He scored 949 points in 1,212 regular-season games, including 421 goals.
Lecavalier began his career with then-Lightning owner Art Williams burdening him with impossible expectations, labeling him “the Michael Jordan of hockey.” He still became Tampa Bay’s career leader in goals (383) and games (1,037). He was a four-time All-Star with 13 20-goal seasons.
Lecavalier has said he has no major plans for retirement beyond fatherhood.