TAMPA — Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman on Wednesday began a process he said he hopes will result in a contract extension for star wing Marty St. Louis.
"I actually had a chance to speak to his agent, and we'll start the discussion and go from there," Yzerman said. "(St. Louis is) a first-class guy, and he deserves to be treated with the utmost respect, and I'll do that. Where it ends up, we'll see, but it definitely is a priority for me."
St. Louis, the 2003-04 regular-season MVP who turns 35 Friday, has one year left on a contract that pays $4 million next season. He said after this past season that he might ask for a trade if he did not like the direction of the team.
His relationship with Yzerman also has been intriguing since Yzerman, as executive director, left St. Louis off Canada's 2010 gold-medal Olympic team. St. Louis has said the snub always will be a sore spot, but he praised Yzerman's hire as GM.
Wednesday at the St. Pete Times Forum, Yzerman sounded as if he couldn't do without St. Louis, who this past season had 29 goals and 94 points, and did not miss a game. "He had a tremendous year," Yzerman said. "He's in tremendous shape. He's a great leader. He's well-respected in the locker room. He's a great example for our young players, so there's a lot of reasons other than his production on the ice that I would like to keep him in the organization and keep him on the team."
St. Louis declined to comment via text message. His agent could not be reached.
CONTRACTS: The Lightning sent qualifying offers to 10 restricted free agents to retain their negotiating rights. Three other players didn't get offers and can sign with any team. Offers were sent to forwards Steve Downie, Blair Jones, Martins Karsums, Teddy Purcell, Juraj Simek, Paul Szczechura and Nate Thompson, and defensemen Mike Lundin, Vladimir Mihalik and Paul Ranger. Forwards Chris Lawrence, Lauri Tukonen and Radek Smolenak were cut loose.
WORLD HOCKEY SUMMIT: Yzerman, with Senators star Daniel Alfredsson, Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke and Canadian women's Olympic gold medalist Hayley Wickenheiser, are part of a leadership group for the Aug. 23-26 event in Toronto that will take on issues that affect the game from amateurs to pros. "I feel that it's a great education for me to be involved in this type of concept," Yzerman said on a conference call. "You learn a lot just by being there."