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Steve Yzerman says Vincent Lecavalier is part of Lightning's plans

Jun 21, 2010, 1:10 PM EST

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sadvinny.jpgAfter being the subject of trade rumors for a couple years largely thanks to under-performing after signing a gigantic contract, Vincent Lecavalier is feeling a little bit better about life in Tampa Bay. According to Damian Cristodero of the St. Petersburg Times, newly minted GM Steve Yzerman assured Lecavalier that the underachieving center is part of the team’s plans going forward.

It should be noted Lecavalier’s contract includes a no-move clause, which means he must approve any trade.

Even so, Lecavalier said, “After I left the meeting, I was very happy. It’s been tough the past two years wondering what’s going to happen and if the rumors were true or not. Those things were distractions, and now it’s over. I’ve always said I wanted to be in Tampa, and they definitely reassured that to me.”

Now it is up to Lecavalier, 30, to show he again can be an elite player after three consecutive seasons of declining goals after his league-best 52 in 2006-07. The center’s 24 goals last season were his fewest since 2001-02.

It’s not just about production for Yzerman, but long-term planning.

Despite the positive words from Stevie Y, my guess is that the clock is ticking on Lecavalier. You can give the Cup-winning center a little rope because the Lightning have been an absolute mess at times, but when a player accepts an outrageous deal, he must live with the (sometimes unfair) expectations.

It really might be one more season for Vinny. His $7.72 million cap hit is already tough to deal with, but with Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis becoming free agents in July 2011 and other big decisions to follow, there’s only so much time before the team decides to part ways with “the Michael Jordan of hockey.”

You can frame Lecavalier’s career as a case of bad luck or a scenario in which he’s been given far too many chances and way too much money despite only coming through on occasion. (The truth is usually somewhere in between.) The trade rumors might die down for a bit, but if he doesn’t start producing, expect to hear about Montreal and other suitors all over again.

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