The biggest prize for National Hockey League teams has been taken off the market as the Tampa Bay Lightning announced on Wednesday that they resigned Steven Stamkos to an eight year, 68 million-dollar contract.
Stamkos, who was being coveted by many teams, as they tried to make salary cap space prior to the opening of the July 1st free agency period reached an agreement to remain in Tampa for eight more seasons. According to TSN, the deal has an annual average value of about 8.5 million per season, and will run through the 2023-2024 NHL season.
Stamkos said, “I am excited to move forward with the Lightning today, for the next eight years. It is not often that a player gets a chance to spend his entire career in one organization and I am hopeful that this agreement sets me on that path with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Most importantly, I look forward to working with my teammates, coaches and our management in our goal of winning a Stanley Cup.”
The questions about where Stamkos would spend the remainder of his career actually began last July 1st, when he could have signed a new deal, but decided to wait things out and see what his options were. On Wednesday, just two days before he could have become an unrestricted free agent, he decided his best option was to stay with the team that drafted him.
Lightning general manager, Steve Yzerman, who played his whole career with the Detroit Red Wings said, “We are very appreciative of the effort and commitment that Steven and his representatives have exhibited in getting a deal done. We are excited to have him as a cornerstone part of our team for the next eight years as we continue in the franchise’s ultimate pursuit of winning another Stanley Cup.”
The Bolts selected Stamkos with the first overall pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. In eight seasons on the west coast of Florida, he has scored 312 goals and 250 assists, in 569 games. He has been the Lightning’s captain since March 6, 2014.
Stamkos was able to begin discussions with the other general managers, last Saturday as the negotiation window opened. He visited the Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres and Boston Bruins during the week.
As the Lightning have gone deep into the past season over the last couple of years, he felt his best option was to stay in Florida.
The Markham, Ontario native missed the last few weeks of the regular season and most of the playoffs, with a blood clot in his right arm, before returning for game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
With Stamkos choosing to stay in Tampa, the Bolts can now turn their attention to resigning Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman. Kucherov is scheduled to become restricted free agents on Friday, while Hedman has one year left on his contract. Hedman can become an unrestricted free agent next summer.
Lightning goaltenders, Ben Bishop and Andrei Vasilevskiy are both entering the final years of the contracts as well. Bishop will become a UFA next summer while Vasilevskiy could become an RFA.
Yzerman said, “This allows us to keep what we feel is a strong nucleus together. We are excited about our team moving forward and continuing to do business to prepare this team for next season.”
Among active players, Stamkos is second in goals per game, at about 0.548 and sixth in points per game at 0.988. He is 18th amongst active players in goals scored and tied for 12th in power play goals.
Before the blood clot forced him out of the lineup this past season, he was able to score 36 goals in 77 games.
During the 2011-2012 season, he scored a career high 60 goals, winning the Rocket Richard Trophy for the second time in his career. The first time he won it, was in 2009-2010, when he shared it with Penguins captain Sidney Crosby as they each tied for the lead with 51 goals.