TAMPA — C Steven Stamkos would neither confirm nor deny a report by Canada's Sportsnet TV network that the Lightning has offered him an eight-year, $68 million contract extension in recent weeks.
"I'm not going to comment on that," Stamkos said Sunday at the Lightning's family carnival at Amalie Arena. "We haven't talked about that stuff in the media all season long, and I don't know how they get a hold of stuff like that. All the things that we've talked about, it's staying internally, and it'll continue to be that way."
But Stamkos, in the final year of his current deal, reiterated he hopes to stay with Tampa Bay for a long time. He has said communication between his agents at Newport Sports and the Lightning has remained open and negotiations are not at a stalemate.
Neither GM Steve Yzerman nor Stamkos' agents had commented on the Saturday report.
The $8.5 million annual average of the offer is believed to be an initial offer. It would be $1 million more than what Stamkos is making this season.
Stamkos spent Sunday playing bubble hockey and pingpong with Lightning fans, many of whom were wearing his No. 91 jersey. The second annual carnival sold out as 3,200 fans participated in 40 interactive games and activities. Proceeds benefit local nonprofit groups.
"I've been in a few organizations, and I've never had anything like this," D Anton Stralman said.
That culture on and off the ice created by owner Jeff Vinik is one reason Stamkos loves playing here.
"It's fantastic," Stamkos said. "When Mr. Vinik bought the team, this was the vision that he had, to have this support of the community and fans like we do."
Pulling bishop: G Ben Bishop was pulled Saturday for the first time this season, relieved by Andrei Vasilevskiy to open the third period against the Panthers after allowing four goals on 30 shots. But coach Jon Cooper made it clear the 5-2 loss wasn't on Bishop, who didn't get much help in front of him in a four-goal second period, including a couple of bad bounces.
"You're not going to go a full season without having one or two periods like that in a year," Cooper said. "Those aren't on 'Bish.' I thought he was really good. Just some of them are tough breaks."
If Bishop, the team MVP this season and a first-time All-Star, hadn't stopped two breakaways in the second period, the score could have been worse. One goal he allowed bounced in off D Victor Hedman's skate.
"I felt all right in there," Bishop said. "Back-to-back lucky bounces (for Florida). It could have easily been 2-0 going into the third. But that's what happens sometimes."
QUICK HOOK: Cooper doesn't usually pull his goalie for an extra attacker with 10 minutes left in a game. "Not often," he said.
But with the Lightning down 4-1 Saturday, Cooper yanked Vasilevskiy, hoping to start a rally.
"You don't plan on pulling a goalie that early. You hope you never have to do that," Cooper said. "But we're trying to win the hockey game."
SCHEDULE: The team is scheduled to practice in Brandon at 10:30 a.m. today.
Contact Joe Smith at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.