BRANDON — If he wanted to, Lightning captain Steven Stamkos could quash any potential drama leading up to the Feb. 29 trade deadline.
Stamkos has a full no-move clause, meaning he holds all the cards. Even if the Lightning wanted to trade him, the team would need his permission.
So if Stamkos plans to stay with the Lightning at least through the end of the season, like many expect, he can just say it: I'm not going anywhere.
But Stamkos isn't saying that, at least not publicly, with comments from him and agent Don Meehan seemingly leaving the door open to anything.
"The trade deadline is coming up in a couple weeks, I'm sure everyone will have some answers in a couple weeks when that comes," Stamkos said Thursday. "We've kept everything to ourselves, and I know it (stinks) for you guys (media). But I think you can appreciate the way we've conducted doing business and whatever happens in the next couple weeks, there's obviously going to be some answers."
Perhaps Stamkos is just maintaining the code of silence that his representatives at Newport Sports and general manager Steve Yzerman have kept throughout the negotiations. Stamkos might not want to paint himself into a corner by answering a hypothetical question.
"There's no use in me speculating and saying things that someone can twist," he said.
But Meehan also gave an interesting response when he was asked Wednesday by Toronto's Sportsnet The Fan radio if the trade deadline was a factor in discussions with the Lightning.
Meehan paused for several seconds before seeming cryptic: "I think that's a sensitive issue."
When pressed as to why it's sensitive, Meehan expounded.
"I think that's just a self-evident issue," he said. "Because beyond the trading deadline, there's no possibility to move a player, to move the asset."
There has been no indication the Lightning has, or will, ask Stamkos to waive his no-move clause. It would appear Stamkos is likely to be in Tampa Bay at least through the end of the season, considering his repeated statements that he wants to stay and win with the Lightning. Plus, it could be hard to imagine Tampa Bay's playoff chances getting better by dealing Stamkos, whose 21 goals are tied for the team lead, no matter the return for a player who becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1.
What would Stamkos decide if he's asked by the Lightning to waive his no-move clause?
"I haven't even thought about that," said Stamkos, who turned 26 on Sunday. "I think the answer is, 'We'll cross that bridge at the time,' and I don't think it's that time now."
Meehan said on Sportsnet 590-AM that conversations with the Lightning have been "productive" and "professional," and that the organization "understands and appreciates the fact Steven has every right and ability to take as much time as necessary."
When asked if Stamkos prefers to remain in Tampa Bay, as he has said repeatedly, Meehan was guarded: "I really don't think it would be fair for me to convey what he's telling me, or what his instructions are."
The Lightning has reportedly made Stamkos an offer that includes an $8.5 million annual average. "I think from Steven's point of view, he's not the kind of individual that would be saying to us, 'I have a priority consideration and it's only money,' " Meehan said. "That wouldn't be Steven Stamkos at all."
Meehan said Stamkos has been active in the negotiations, very thorough and diligent. "He's in charge," Meehan said.
"It's your career. It's your life. You've got to know exactly what's going on," Stamkos said. "You've got to do your due diligence. It's going to be a process. That's how I approach anything in life, whether it's a decision to buy a house or buy a car. You want to make sure you're well-informed before you make a decision. Obviously, this is a little bigger decision than those things, but just as an example, you want to make sure that everyone's interests are the best, and you go from there."
While fans and media continue to speculate about his future, Stamkos takes it in stride.
"I think, for me, it's been something I didn't know what to expect going into this year. I didn't know how long it was going to play out," Stamkos said. "It's my first time going through something of this magnitude in my career. Like I said before, when you have a decision like this, it takes time. You make sure at the end of the day you make the right decision."