Tampa Bay Lightning: 50 Greatest Moments In Franchise History

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Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

5. Tampa Bay Lightning Drafts Vincent Lecavalier

Date: June 27, 1998

In the 1997-98 season, the Tampa Bay Lightning has plenty of talent; however, they lacked a consistent 20 goal scorer. Under normal circumstances, you don’t draft what you need, you draft to build the future of a team. Unfortunately, when you are in a situation like the one the Tampa Bay Lightning found themselves in, you do what you have to do.

This brings us to the 1998 National Hockey League Entry Draft. In the 1997-98 season, the Tampa Bay Lightning had one of the most horrific seasons in franchise history. The Tampa Bay Lightning ended the season in dead last place in the National Hockey League, having gone 17-55-10 for a whopping 44 points. After a little moving and shaking, the Tampa Bay Lightning would end up with the first pick in the draft.

There was a lot of talent on the docket in the 1998 NHL Draft, but there was one particular player the Tampa Bay Lightning had in mind. This player would be a then-18 year old future Tampa Bay Lightning captain by the name of Vincent Lecavalier.

The young, Quebec native spent his very first season with the Tampa Bay Lightning on the main roster. Needless to say, Lecavalier wasted no time in making an impact on both the team and the National Hockey League. In his first season with the Bolts, Lecavalier would play in all 82 games, scoring 13 goals and 15 assists for a total of 28 points. While this would place in him just fourth place on the team in points, it is definitely a good start for an 18 year old looking to navigate his career in the National Hockey League.

The very next season, Lecavalier would almost double his numbers from the previous season. Playing in 80 games with the Lightning, Lecavalier would score 25 goals and 42 assists for a total of 67 points. Towards the end of the season, Lecavalier was named the youngest captain in Tampa Bay Lightning history. Unfortunately, this would last just one season before he was stripped of the C. This is when now-former Tampa Bay Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk came into play.

Lecavalier really stretched the boundaries of what a young player in the National Hockey League could accomplish at the onset of the 2003-04 season. During the regular season, Vinny would score 32 goals and 34 assists for a total of 66 points. Fortunately for the Lightning, Lecavalier’s contributions would not end with the regular season.

In the post season, Lecavalier would bring home nine goals and seven assists for a total of 16 points. This is the year Lecavalier would forever cement his legacy with the Tampa Bay Lightning when the Bolts defeated the Calgary Flames to become the Stanley Cup Champions.

In the 2006-07 season, Vincent Lecavalier would set the bar even higher in what could easily be seen as his best season ever. Playing in all 82 games that season, Vincent Lecavalier would score 52 goals and 56 assists for a total of 108 points. Not only would Lecavalier lead the Lightning in points, but he would lead the entire National Hockey League in goals scored. These numbers would earn Lecavalier his first-ever Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy.

Prior to the 2008-09 season, Vincent Lecavalier would once again be named captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Lecavalier would spent 14 seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but with the salary cap weighing heavily on the Lightning, Vice President and General Manager Steve Yzerman would elect to buyout the contract of the Lightning captain. Just one week later, Lecavalier would sign a five-year contract with the Philadelphia Flyers.

While Vincent Lecavalier may not have received his wish of retiring as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning, there is no denying his impact was felt here in the Bolts Nation. No matter which team in the National Hockey League Lecavalier may be a member of when he decides to hang his skates up once and for all, Vinny Lecavalier will always be a member of the Lightning in the hearts of Bolts fans.

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