Stamkos enjoys 'relaxing' trip to Toronto
Usually, when Lightning captain Steven Stamkos returns to his hometown of Toronto, it can be a bit stressful.
There's all the hoopla and speculation surrounding Stamkos, 26, potentially signing with the Maple Leafs if he hits unrestricted free agency July 1. For example, a story on the front of the Toronto Sun sports section Tuesday had the headline "Leafs actually attractive landing spot," with "plenty to offer free agents such as Tampa's Stamkos."
But this trip still had a different feel. While the last two stops in Toronto this season were rushed on the back of a back-to-back for Tampa Bay, Stamkos got to spend Monday's offday at his parents house, visiting with family and eating a homecooked meal. He joked he was a bit bored.
"It was nice and relaxing," he said.
With GM Steve Yzerman declaring in mid-February Stamkos wouldn't be traded at the Feb. 29 deadline, that put out some fires. And with the Lightning just a few weeks away from the playoffs, vying for the top spot in the Atlantic Division, that's been more of the focus than Stamkos' contract.
Stamkos continued to reiterate that his strong play - and that of his team - since Yzerman's statement is "more coincidence than anything." Stamkos has a team-high 31 goals, with the Lightning 10-3-1 since Yzerman's statement.
"Obviously it eases with the questions from the media," Stamkos said. "But, at the end of the day, I knew I wasn't going anywhere. But whatever you can do to just create the focus onto hockey more than anything else is probably going to help a little bit. It's worked out in our favor."
Stamkos was asked if he still has the same excitement over playing at the Air Canada Centre.
"I'd say it's died down a little bit for sure," Stamkos said. "Not as many ticket requests and things like that. It's always fun."
Especially when you get home-cooked meals.