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The Vinny Lecavalier Sweepstakes Has Begun!

Goodman Sports hockey specialist Robert Wranovics reports:

The Tampa Bay Lightning are buying out Vincent Lecavalier's contract for around $32 million. Lecavalier said"I'm so motivated to go somewhere else and prove I can play at a high level," on a conference call yesterday. This move will free up cap space for the Lightning as his contract would have cost them a $7 million cap hit for the upcoming season. Okay, sure the team has Steven Stamkos, but Lecavalier was good for 32 points in 39 games, lighting the lamp 10 times and getting 22 assists. He was a big part of Tampa Bay's successful offense this past season (the same cannot be said about the defense). This makes things very interesting and heats up the Free Agency market big time. Here are my top choices for teams he is most likely to go to and why:

Montreal Canadiens: There have been early rumblings the Canadiens will take a serious shot at him. With that being said, he will get a very nice contract going to Montreal and more importantly give them the potential offensive edge they need. They were fifth in the league last season coming in behind Pittsburgh, Chicago, Tampa Bay and Washington. Is this the best place for him to win a cup? Probably not, but it wouldn't be bad odds. This would limit Montreal as they currently sit only $9 million under the cap. The lure of Lecavalier coming back home could be tempting...

Toronto Maple Leafs: He could be the missing piece to the Leaf's puzzle and they certainly could use him. They could pay him handsomely as wel,l as they have nearly $19 million to play with in cap space. This team went far in the playoffs and Lecavalier could provide that extra push needed to go the distance. The only problem is hockey is not nearly as intense in Tampa as it is in Toronto. If he signs, will his star status continue or crumble underneath the Toronto pressure?

Chiacgo Blackhawks: This is a nice and simple one, they just won the cup and if winning another one is important to him, this is the obvious choice. The problem is that Chicago still has contracts to fill before even thinking about Lecavalier. He still would be a great fit for this team and could make them a possible repeat winner for the cup. Unless big moves are made, this fit just won't happen despite both parties wanting it. Chicago currently sits only $2 million under the cap. However, if it isn't broken, don't fix it.

Less Likely:

Vancouver Canucks: Why not have a reunion with the head coach that helped him win the cup in 2004? The Canucks were in the bottom half of the league in scoring and Tortorella does know Vinny very well and they do have great rapport.  Suppose they buyout Luongo, suddenly they have room for Lecavalier's contract. This could be a match made in heaven if the cards fall in place. Tortorella could use Lecavalier to rebuild his reputation and Lecavalier could use Tortorella to step up his game and lead the Canucks past a first round exit. The problem is that the Canucks have under $1 million in cap space at the current time.

New York Rangers: Okay, now you probably think I had one too many here but bear with me. There is talks that Brad Richards's contract might be bought out which would free up space for Lecavalier. Richards did go missing in the playoffs and his confidence may be broken for a little while because of Tortorella or because of the pressure that comes with playing in the Big Apple; Lecavalier will be coming in a proven winner unlike Richards. Either way, The Rangers have around $14 million to play with at the current time. It is no surprise that the Rangers desperately need offense and Vinny could be the answer to the offensive struggle and power play disasters. Lastly, if anything their GM is good at, it's that Sather loves bringing in big names. – Gaborik, Nash, Richards, Gomez, Drury, Redden, Jagr...

Other Teams To Watch: Detroit, St. Louis, Boston