The Tampa Bay Lightning signed Vincent Lecavalier, the top overall pick in this year's NHL draft, to the richest deal ever for a rookie on Wednesday.
The club did not disclose financial terms of the contract, but the NHL Players Association said the three-year pact tops all rookie contracts in league history.
The 18-year-old center would have had to return to his junior club had he not signed with the team by midnight, but Lecavalier will be on the Lightning roster for their season-opener on Friday.
Lecavalier led Tampa Bay in scoring during the preseason with four goals and nine points and had drawn comparisons to the great Mario Lemieux during his junior career.
Rated as the top skater available in the draft, the 6-foot-4, 180-pound Lecavalier had 44 goals and 71 assists in 58 games last season with Rimouski Oceanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League before playing for Canada at the World Junior Championship.
Rookie of the Year in all of major junior hockey in 1996-97 when he collected 103 points in 64 games, Lecavalier will be counted on to help turn around a team that finished with a league-worst 17-55-10 record last season.
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