The star forward, one of the league's elite scorers, entered the final year of his contract with uncertainty over whether he'd sign an extension.
He insisted he wanted to stay with the team that drafted him. Having grown up in Ontario, some speculated he'd want to return home or test free agency. But he let his agents at Newport Sports work on a deal while he played hockey.
That was Ducks wing Corey Perry, who found himself in 2013 in a similar situation to what Lightning captain Steven Stamkos faces now. Perry, the 2011 league MVP and a Peterborough, Ontario, native, ended up signing an eight-year, $69 million deal with Anaheim in March of that year, months from unrestricted free agency. Also signing an extension at that time was teammate Ryan Getzlaf, the team captain who was also in his last year.
Whether Stamkos, a Markham, Ontario, native, does the same remains to be seen, but the examples of Perry and Getzlaf are the most promising precedents for Lightning fans hoping their All-Star center stays. Perry even shares an agent with Stamkos, Don Meehan.
"You can sign at any point in time," Perry said. "It all depends on what (Stamkos) wants to do. The ball is kind of in his court."
Each situation is different, and so are the salary cap realities of the 2013 Ducks and the 2015 Lightning. But Perry and Getzlaf can speak to how ongoing negotiations can weigh on a player if he lets it.
"It's hard," Perry said. "You don't know what's going to happen."
Getzlaf had made his mind up that he was staying in Anaheim and directed his agents to make it happen. "I wasn't trying to break the bank, just trying to get a fair deal and move on," said Getzlaf, who signed for eight years and $66 million.
It's hard to know what Stamkos is asking for. On the free agent market, he could command in the range of the eight-year, $84 million deals Blackhawks stars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews signed last year. The Lightning may not be willing to spend that, especially with other key players due deals in coming years. Getzlaf said a key is Stamkos not being part of the negotiations, allowing his agents to do the work.
"You never want to be part of the day-to-day talks," Getzlaf said. "(The team) is trying to make you sound terrible, and (your agents) are trying to make you sound good. So remove yourself from that."
It was easier for Getzlaf and Perry. Their negotiations came during a lockout-shortened season, so they played just two months without a deal. Both said the contract saga didn't impact their play, and Stamkos certainly doesn't look like he's distracted, with five goals entering Saturday's game against the Blackhawks.
Some speculate Stamkos would want to join his hometown Maple Leafs in free agency. Perry said he understands the allure.
"Obviously you think about it. You wonder, 'What if?' " Perry said. "But at the end of the day, I can't ask for anything better than Anaheim. I'm glad I did what I did."
Stamkos has the ultimate hammer, a no-move clause. So even if both sides decide they are too far apart and Tampa Bay considers trading its captain, it doesn't appear Stamkos is going anywhere. Could he follow in Getzlaf and Perry's footsteps?
"Only 'Stammer' knows where his head is at, what he wants to do truly," Getzlaf said.
Said Perry: "It's all up to him."
Contact Joe Smith at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.