On his list of priorities as the Lightning's new general manager, Steve Yzerman has signing Steven Stamkos to a contract extension close to the top.
Yzerman acknowledged the sides cannot speak until July 1, when the final year of Stamkos' three-year rookie deal that pays a base salary of $875,000 begins. But Yzerman said considering what the star center means to the franchise, it's never too early to prepare.
"We've got to start the discussion, yes," Yzerman told reporters in Toronto at the NHL scouting combine. "It's in the back of my mind. I realize that's there. It is something absolutely we'll want to prepare for and get the discussion going right away."
Stamkos' agent, Mark Guy, told the St. Petersburg Times he would "welcome" the discussion. "It's not surprising based on the year he had," Guy said of his client. "We know Steve (Yzerman) fairly well. We'd listen to whatever he wants to talk about."
Stamkos, 20, has blossomed into one of the game's most explosive and dynamic players, and this season he tied Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby with a league-best 51 goals. He had a team-high 95 points, a league-best 24 power-play goals and a team-record 18-game points streak.
"It's an understatement, but he's an important part of the franchise for a long, long time," Yzerman said. "He's coming off a tremendous season. And he's really just starting out."