Vinik remains confident Lightning can sign Stamkos
Owner Jeff Vinik said at September's Fan Fest he was "confident" the Lightning would sign captain Steven Stamkos to a long-term deal.
And despite the fact Stamkos doesn't yet have an extension, and is just months away from unrestricted free agency, Vinik said Monday he feels just as strongly something will get done.
"Absolutely," Vinik said. "I'm sure that this process will work itself out in a good manner."
Vinik doesn't appear to be an active participant in any contract negotiations, continuing to leave all hockey operations in the hands of general manager Steve Yzerman. Stamkos, who could warrant $10-$11 million annually over eight years, has said he hopes to remain in Tampa Bay, and thinks a deal can still be worked out.
Vinik insists he's not worried.
"Steven Stamkos is a great player, great person," Vinik said. "But as you know, one of the reasons we've been successful with our hockey program is I let Steve Yzerman run it. I let him choose the players, I let him do the contracts. So I think as long as I'm owner here, Steve Yzerman will be making those decisions."
While the Lightning (18-15-3) entered Monday out of playoff position, disappointing considering its run to the Stanley Cup Final in June, Vinik still believes his team is capable of another run.
"It's a long season, and no season goes the same," Vinik said. "There have been ups and downs along the way. Last year was unusual with very few downs along the way. But we've got a lot of talent and have been hurt by injuries and a few other things. But I'm confident in our guys.
"There's plenty of time to play a lot of good hockey. As you know, you're not going to win the Stanley Cup at the end of December. The idea is to win games, pick up points and make the playoffs. Make the playoffs, anything can happen."