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Lightning sign Andrei Vasilevskiy to three-year extension

The Lightning signed Andrei Vasilevkiy, 21, to a three-year extension worth $3.5 million annually.

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

The Lightning signed Andrei Vasilevkiy, 21, to a three-year extension worth $3.5 million annually.

The Lightning will soon have to make a decision in net, with goalie Ben Bishop entering the final year of his deal and only one goalie allowed to be protected in next year's expansion draft.

And Tampa Bay has now made a strong commitment to Andrei Vasilevkiy, 21, signing him to a three-year extension Friday worth $3.5 million annually. Vasilevskiy has one year left on his deal at $925,000.

"He wanted to show Tampa that he's prepared to committ and let's see what happens," Vasilevskiy's agent Rolly Hedges told the Times. "He just wanted to show what he can do, wanted to be part of the organization. He could have waited a year, but he wanted to show he's a team player."

Hedges said there were no guarantees given by Tampa Bay regarding next year's expansion draft, Vasilevskiy doesn't have a no move or no trade clause. Bishop has one year left on his deal at $5.95 million, and has been a subject of trade rumors.

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Lightning lock up Victor Hedman for eight years

After watching captain Steven Stamkos' negotiations go down to the wire, the Lightning wasted no time Friday in locking up another franchise foundation.

Defenseman Victor Hedman signed an eight-year, $63 million extension ($7.85 million AAV) on the first day he could, exactly one year away from unrestricted free agency. There's a no-trade clause throughout. Agent Peter Wallen told the Times negotiations, which began at last weekend's draft, went "super, super fast," both sides wanting to get it done "badly."

"For me, it was never a doubt," Hedman said. "Staying in Tampa was my No. 1 priority."

The Lightning also signed goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy Friday to a three-year extension $3.5 million AAV), a potential sign of their decision in goal. And GM Steve Yzerman said they're confident they can sign restricted free agent wing Nikita Kucherov.

But some of the biggest heavy lifting has been done, signing Stamkos to an eight-year, $68 million deal Wednesday, and now Hedman. Stamkos, taken No. 1 overall in 2008, and Hedman, No. 2 in 2009, have become among the best at their positions, not to mention key leaders on the Lightning. …

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Lightning loses Marchessault, signs Bournival

Jonathan Marchessault could get more of a chance to play with the Panthers.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Jonathan Marchessault could get more of a chance to play with the Panthers.

Jonathan Marchessault has signed with the Panthers, a two-year deal at $750,000, per TSN.

That means the Lightning  lost one of its unrestricted free agents. Marchessault's agent had said there was mutual interest between him and Tampa Bay. But it would seem that Marchessault could get more of a chance to play with the Panthers.

Marchessault, 26, was a pleasant surprise last season for the Lightning. After being one of the final cuts in camp and clearing waivers, Marchessault made an impact in an early-season callup. He had seven goals and 11 assists in 45 games, albeit a minus-10. His playing time dwindled in the playoffs, appearing in five games. In limbo most of the year, his family of four lived mostly out of a hotel before settling into an apartment in Brandon.

The Lightning did add to its depth in AHL Syracuse by signig left wing Michael Bournival, who spent last season with Montreal's AHL St. John's IceCaps.

Tampa Bay has yet to sign its restricted free agents Nikita Kucherov, Alex Killorn, Vladislav Namestnikov, Kristers Gudlevskis. Nothing appears imminent at this point, but we'll see as the day unfolds.

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Yzerman 'confident' Lightning can sign Nikita Kucherov

Nikita Kucherov, 23, is one of the league's top young stars, and is due a hefty raise from the $700,000 he made last season.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Nikita Kucherov, 23, is one of the league's top young stars, and is due a hefty raise from the $700,000 he made last season.

With captain Steven Stamkos and defenseman Victor Hedman both locked up for eight more years, the attention turns to another foundation-type player, wing Nikita Kucherov.

Kucherov, 23, is a restricted free agent, due a big bump from the $700,000 he made last season, when he racked up 30 goals. He'll likely garner in the range of the six-year, $36 million extension Predators forward Filip Forsberg got this week, maybe more.

GM Steve Yzerman said Friday the team is engaged in negotiations, and optimistic a deal can get done.

"We'll do our best to get (it) done as quickly as possible," Yzerman said. "It's a process, hopefully sooner than later. I'm confident in that at some point, we'll be able to reach an agreement."

Kucherov could theoretically get an offer sheet from another team, which Tampa Bay is allowed to match. But it would prove costly if the Lightning ends up signing him, costing that team a first, second and third round draft choice (if Kucherov makes between $5.6 million and $7.5 million annually). …

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Steven Stamkos said he followed his heart to Tampa

While Steven Stamkos had many other suitors, including his hometown Maple Leafs, he spurned potential sweepstakes — and more money —  to stay with the Lightning.

DIRK SHADD | Times

While Steven Stamkos had many other suitors, including his hometown Maple Leafs, he spurned potential sweepstakes — and more money — to stay with the Lightning.

Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said there were a couple sleepless nights throughout this whirlwind contract saga.

"It was a very tough decision, it truly was," Stamkos said on a conference call. "I can't say this past week has been fun. It was pretty stressful to be honest."

And while Stamkos, 26, had many other suitors, including his hometown Maple Leafs, he spurned potential sweepstakes - and more money - in Friday's free agency to stay with the Lightning. In the end, Stamkos said, that's where he always wanted to be.

"I felt in my heart that Tampa was always the place I wanted to stay," Stamkos said. "It was just following your heart and being loyal to the organization that brought me up and made me the player and person that I am today."

Stamkos signed an eight-year, $68 million deal ($8.5 million annual average) with the Lightning, acknowledging he likely left some money on the table with other teams; he declined to discuss what teams pursued him, or what they pitched). But Stamkos, picked No. 1 overall by Tampa Bay in 2008, said the Lightning gives him the best chance to win, the organization treating him and his family "first-class." …

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Lightning buys out veteran defenseman Matt Carle's contract

Matt Carle was Tampa Bay's highest paid defenseman last season at $5.5 million, but his role was declining, often a healthy scratch.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Matt Carle was Tampa Bay's highest paid defenseman last season at $5.5 million, but his role was declining, often a healthy scratch.

Veteran defenseman Matt Carle is being bought out by the Lightning, giving the team much-needed cap relief as it tries to sign other restricted free agents.

Carle, 31, was Tampa Bay's highest paid defenseman last season at $5.5 million, but his role was declining, often a healthy scratch, including in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final. His buyout would save $3.67 million off the cap the next two seasons, his buyout spread out over the next four at $1.833 cap hit each season.

With the emergence of prospect Slater Koekkoek, who got key playing time in the playoffs, he should get a shot at cracking the top-six/seven next season, along with Nikita Nesterov, who is a restricted free agent.

After captain Steven Stamkos' eight-year, $68 million contract signed yesterday, the Lightning had just over $9 million in cap space remaining for next season, per generalfanager.com. The Carle buyout provides more cushion, needed as the Lightning needs to resign RFAs like Nikita Kucherov, who is due a big raise from $700,000, Alex Killorn and Vladislav Namestnikov. …

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Steven Stamkos staying with Lightning

All along, captain Steven Stamkos maintained he wanted to re-sign with the Lightning.

But as Stamkos came just two days away from unrestricted free agency, getting courted by other teams, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman admittedly had his doubts.

"Quite honestly, I didn't know how it was going to play out," Yzerman said.

But, in the end, Stamkos is staying, signing an eight-year deal worth $8.5 million annually, with a full-no move clause. TSN's Bob McKenzie was the first to report the story Wednesday. The Tampa Bay Times confirmed the news.

“It’s not often that a player gets the chance to spend his career in one organization and I am hopeful that this agreement sets me on that path with the Tampa Bay Lightning," Stamkos said in a statement. "Most importantly, I look forward to working with my teammates, coaches and our management in our pursuit of winning a Stanley Cup.”

Stamkos, 26, had been talking with other teams through a five-day interview window. The Leafs, Red Wings, Sabres were among many teams interested.  Other teams were expected to offer more than $8.5 million annually, but a Times analysis showed that with no state income taxes, the Lightning could help bridge the gap. …

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Lightning reportedly interested in Andrew Ladd

Andrew Ladd, right, has drawn interest from the Lightning, along with the Predators, Islanders and Canadiens.

Getty Images (2011)

Andrew Ladd, right, has drawn interest from the Lightning, along with the Predators, Islanders and Canadiens.

Lightning GM Steve Yzerman has said they had to go forward with some decisions and plans, even as the wait continues on whether captain Steven Stamkos will re-sign.

And it appears one contingency plan could involve veteran wing Andrew Ladd.

Ladd, 30, an unrestricted free agent, has drawn interest from the Lightning, along with the Predators, Islanders and Canadiens. It makes sense, with Ladd a five-time 20-goal scorer in the last six years, including racking up 25 split between Chicago and Winnipeg last season.

Ladd, at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, would also provide size and a physical presence that the Lightning could use in its forward group.

It's unclear how much interest Tampa Bay has in Ladd, or how much the wing would want in free agency (he had a $4.5 million cap hit). But rest assured, he won't be the only name that is linked to the Lightning in coming days.

Free agency opens Friday at 12:01 p.m.

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Why a sign and trade with Steven Stamkos is possible

Steven Stamkos, with a full no-move clause, would have to give permission, holding the cards to go to the team of his choosing.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Steven Stamkos, with a full no-move clause, would have to give permission, holding the cards to go to the team of his choosing.

The Steven Stamkos Sweeptakes could be over before Friday's opening of free agency, whether he re-signs with the Lightning or not.

That's because there may be motivation, from both Tampa Bay and Stamkos, to orchestrate a sign-and-trade, if it's decided the captain isn't returning to the Lightning.

For Stamkos, 26, it's the only way he'd be able to get an eighth year on a contract from anyone, including the Lightning. Everyone, including Tampa Bay, can only offer seven when free agency opens at noon Friday.  For Tampa Bay, a sign-and-trade is a way to get an asset for Stamkos as opposed to losing a generational scorer and face of the franchise for nothing.

GM Steve Yzerman was asked at last weekend's NHL Draft if he'd consider a sign-and-trade with Stamkos, if he knew the All-Star center was gone.

"Never given it a thought so maybe I should think about it,” Yzerman said. “It’s an interesting idea … well losing him for nothing or losing him for an asset? I’d love to get an asset for him." …

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How the tax factor favors the Lightning in the Steven Stamkos sweepstakes

DIRK SHADD | Times

With captain Steven Stamkos just four days away from being the most coveted unrestricted free agent in years, there will be no shortage of suitors likely offering more annually than the Lightning.

Tampa Bay is still in the mix, however.

Aside from being a great on-ice fit, the Lightning. which is believed to have offered Stamkos an extension with worth $8.5 million annually, holds a couple x-factors over other suitors in that there's no state income taxes in Florida and the Lightning is the only team that can offer him eight year contract (others only seven). As Tampa Bay Times analysis in January showed Stamkos could net nearly the same annually after taxes in Tampa Bay at $8.5 million as $10 million in New York (Rangers, Islanders), presuming he’d be a New York City resident (see chart); Stamkos would make more over the length of the deal in Tampa because of the extra year. Stamkos would net just $500,000 less annually than a $10 million deal Detroit, another strong suitor, but, again, more over the length of the deal. …

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Kucherov, Killorn among those receiving qualifying offers

The Lightning issued qualifying offers Monday to most of their remaining restricted free agents, including wings Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn.

Vladislav Namestnikov, Kristers Gudlevskis, Nikita Nesterov, Tye McGinn, Yanni Gourde also received qualifying offers.

Teams had until 5 p.m. Monday to give qualifying offers, otherwise the players would become unrestricted free agents.

The Lightning still has to sign these players, Kucherov, Killorn and Namestnikov no doubt top priorities. Kucherov wiill get a big bump from his $700,000 salary, and is the one most likely to get an offer sheet from another team. Other teams can start talking to RFAs on Tuesday.

Tampa Bay already signed RFAs J.T. Brown. Cedric Paquette and Luke Witkowski over the weekend. The agents for Kucherov, Killorn and Namestnikov said they planned to be in touch with Tampa Bay this week.

 

 

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Steven Stamkos sweepstakes begin

Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) celebrates after he shoots and scores the game winning goal in the shoot out to beat the Winnipeg Jets with a final score of 6 to 5 at the Amalie Arena in Tampa in February.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) celebrates after he shoots and scores the game winning goal in the shoot out to beat the Winnipeg Jets with a final score of 6 to 5 at the Amalie Arena in Tampa in February.

The Steven Stamkos Sweepstakes have officially begun, and there's going to be no shortage of suitors trying to reel him in.

""We're going to chase the big fish," Sabres GM Tim Murray said.

At midnight Friday, Stamkos, 26, the Lightning superstar captain, reached the five-day interview period, where other teams can court him before he becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1. The Sabres plan to make a strong push, Murray saying he's going to show Stamkos their "blueprint." The Red Wings freed up $7.5 million in cap space in dealing Pavel Datsyuk's contract Friday night, with GM Ken Holland saying they're going after a high impact forward. TSN reported Detroit may offer the max of seven years at $10 million annually. Stamkos'  hometown Maple Leafs may offer more money, not to mention sizable endorsement potential.

Canucks Jim Benning may get fined for tampering for saying Thursday he planned to call Stamkos. Teams aren't allowed to talk money during the interview period, but can sell free agents like Stamkos in other ways, gauging his interest. Murray said he has no sense if Stamkos is interested in Buffalo. …

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Lightning trades former first-round pick Anthony DeAngelo

The Lightning drafted Anthony DeAngelo 19th overall in 2014.

DIRK SHADD | Times (2014)

The Lightning drafted Anthony DeAngelo 19th overall in 2014.

When the Lightning Anthony DeAngelo 19th overall in 2014, it showed a lot of faith and confidence in the touted defenseman despite supposed character concerns.

Tampa Bay loved DeAngelo's puck-moving abilities and offensive skill, the kind of player that can impact a power play.

But just two years later, DeAngelo is gone, the Lightning trading him to Arizona Saturday for the 37th overall pick, which they used to pick defenseman Libor Hajek. DeAngelo was coming off a tough first pro season with AHL Syracuse, a minus-18 while getting healthy scratched eight times. DeAngelo tweeted he was excited to be with the Coyotes, thanking Tampa Bay.

It sounds like it might have been a mutual parting, or even initiated by DeAngelo himself.

"I wish things could have been different but I think this is better for all involved," said DeAngelo's father, Lou. "We are thankful for the opportunity... We were looking for an opportunity to play in the NHL sooner rather than later."

Former Syracuse coach Rob Zettler said at the end of the season DeAngelo's struggles were mostly in the defensive zone, as he's obviously a gifted offensive player. …

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Flames acquire Elliott from Blues, eliminating potential Ben Bishop suitor

Calgary would likely need to know it can sign Bishop long-term before any potential trade.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Calgary would likely need to know it can sign Bishop long-term before any potential trade.

UPDATE, 8:20 p.m.: The Calgary Flames acquired goalie Brian Elliott from the St. Louis Blues, eliminating one potential suitor for the Lightning's Ben Bishop. The Blues received the 35th overall pick in the draft and a conditional third-round pick.

The price for Elliott was likely less than what the Lightning would have asked for Bishop, a two-time Vezina Trophy finalist. While TSN's Bob McKenzie reported the Flames had received permission to talk to Bishop's camp about contract, those discussions were never initiated, the Times has learned.

DEVELOPING: Goalie Ben Bishop could be in his final hours with the Lightning.

The Flames are pushing hard for a No. 1 goaltender, and have been in talks with Tampa Bay about Bishop, a two-time Vezina Trophy finalist. Calgary has also been talking to St. Louis about Brian Elliott.

TSN's Bob McKenzie reported this evening that the Flames have been given permission to talk contract with Bishop, who is entering the final year of his deal with a $5.95 million cap hit. To get that permission appears like talks are in advanced stages. Calgary would likely need to know it can sign Bishop long-term before the trade. …

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Lightning signs Brown, Paquette, Witkowski

J.T. Brown, a key bottom-six forward and penalty killer, received a $2.5 million deal ($1.25 million per year).

DIRK SHADD | Times

J.T. Brown, a key bottom-six forward and penalty killer, received a $2.5 million deal ($1.25 million per year).

The Lightning started chipping away at its many restricted free agents Friday, signing three, including RW J.T. Brown and C Cedric Paquette to two-year deals.

D Luke Witkowski also signed a one-year deal.

Brown, a key bottom-six forward and penalty killer, received a $2.5 million deal ($1.25 million per year), with Paquette $1.625 million ($800,000 next season, $825,000) in 2017-18.

Tampa Bay still has several restricted free agents to lock up, including RW Nikita Kucherov, a 30-goal scorer who is due a big raise from the $700,000 he made last season. The Lightning  has had preliminary discussions with Kucherov's camp, but so far preliminary, with no offers yet. There should be more talk leading up until July 1 and after.

RW Alex Killorn and C Vladislav Namestnikov also are restricted free agents, along with G Kristers Gudlevskis. Pat Brisson, Namestnikov's agent, said he plans to talk to Tampa Bay in the next week. The Lightning has an estimated $18.3875 million in cap space for next season, according to generalfanager.com. That doesn't include a potential contract for C Steven Stamkos, either. …

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