Lightning agree to terms on five-year deal with Steven Stamkos
Update 6:48 p.m. Center Steven Stamkos was very happy to get a deal done, saying it took longer than he would have expected but "never lost sleep" over it.
"For me, it was about trying to get a deal done in Tampa," Stamkos said. "Because ultimately, that's was where I wanted to stay. I never thought about looking anywhere else."
Stamkos said the deal - five years, $37 million - was "wrapped up" a couple weeks ago, they just had to sort out some of the details. Even still, it was hard for Stamkos, who is in Toronto in the offseason, to tune out the unfounded rumors of him potentially playing elsewhere. "It was comical at first, got a little annoying towards the end," he said. "But it was something that comes with the territory."
Stamkos said the funniest/craziest was a text from a friend that had a photo with his face photoshopped onto the body of Leafs center Phil Kessel, and asked if it was true he was going to play there.
"I kind of cracked up, I couldn't hold the laugh in, that people are actually circulating that photo and thought it was real," he said.
In all honesty, Stamkos said he wasn't aware of any offer sheets from other teams. He was focused on returning to Tampa, with the five-year term comfortable for both sides, hoping to grow with the Lightning and hoist a Stanley Cup.
Update 6:24 p.m. Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman was understandably excited to be able to announce the five-year, $37.5 million deal with star center Steven Stamkos.
Yzerman said though the negotations with the restricted free agent took longer than some people expected, they weren't particularly difficult, and he had no doubts that the Lightning would be able to sign Stamkos. Yzerman said they were prepared to deal with an offer sheet if another team jumped in with one, but was happy with how the deal worked out. Though several different lengths of contracts were discussed, they were "comfortable" with the five-year term.
"There was never a time where I didn't think he'd be in the lineup - one way or another, we felt we'd get him signed," Yzerman said. "It took some time, but we were able to accomplish that."
Yzerman said he learned quite a bit about Stamkos in the playoff run, how competitive he is and how he raises his play in big games. And he expects more to come in future years.
"Let's all keep in mind he's only 21, has played three years in the league," Yzerman said. "And the best yeras are in front of him."
Developing: The Tampa Bay Lightning has agreed to terms on a five-year deal with star center Steven Stamkos, worth around $37.5 million.
The annual cap hit for Stamkos' deal will be $7.5 million, with the it breaking down as $8 million in each of the first four years and $5.5 in the final year.
Stamkos, 21, one of the league's top players, had been a restricted free agent. Though the protracted contract talks led to rampant speculation about offer sheets from other teams, both Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman and Stamkos had said they were optimistic they'd get a deal done before the season.
Stamkos' agent, Mark Guy, told the Times Tuesday that offer sheets from other teams "wasn't something that was ever explored." He said talks with the Lightning had been ongoing for the past month, and everything was verified and signed off on today.
"When you're dealing with a player that's this important to the franchise and has had as much success that he's had at such a young age, these things take time to work through," Guy said. "There are a lot of variables to work out, it was a good process for both sides. Steven is extremely excited and happy and grateful for Tampa, for Mr. Yzerman and Mr. Vinik, for the whole group. And he's excited to have it done...
"Steven's direction the entire time was to get a deal done with Tampa, and that's what Steve and that's what we were just working toward."
Yzerman, who was in Toronto Tuesday, said in a statement: “Steven is extremely important to this franchise and is part of the foundation of our hockey team. We are very pleased to have him signed and look forward to seeing him in a Lightning uniform for years to come.”
Stamkos led the NHL with 96 goals over the past two seasons, including 45 goals and 91 points last year.
“I am excited we were able to reach an agreement today,” Stamkos said in a statement. “This was obviously very important to me and I appreciate Mr. Vinik and Steve Yzerman for all their work in the transformation of the franchise as we move forward. There is no place I’d rather be than as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning.”
Count Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier as another one "excited" about the news.
"It's great for the team, the organization and the city of Tampa," Lecavalier wrote in a text message. "Now everybody can get focused for training camp."
Stamkos made his Stanley Cup playoffs debut this year, playing in 18 games as the Lightning fell one game short of the Stanley Cup Final, losing to the Bruins in Game 7. He had six goals and 13 points in the postseason, including three, three-point games. The former No. 1 overall pick in 2008 has 119 career goals in 243 games, and won a share of the 2010 Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy as the league's leading scorer.
-- JOE SMITH