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Tampa Bay Lightning signs defenseman Victor Hedman to five-year extension

DETROIT — Signing D Victor Hedman on Wednesday to a five-year, $20 million contract extension was one thing. But having two young cornerstone players in the fold — the team signed C Steven Stamkos to a five-year deal over the summer — is what really excited Lightning GM Steve Yzerman.

"It's great for our organization," Yzerman said. "It's important that there's stability in our organization and we've got our young players."

The contracts don't quite mesh. Stamkos' five-year, $37.5 million deal kicked in this season and runs through 2015-16. Hedman's extension begins next season and runs through 2016-17.

It pays $1.5 million next season; $3 million in 2013-14; $4 million in 2014-15; $6 million in 2015-16; and $4 million in 2016-17. He also got a $1.5 million signing bonus.

"It's tough after a tough loss to the Red Wings," Hedman said of enjoying his situation. "But I can't lie to you. I'm very, very happy to be staying in Tampa."

For Yzerman, the Lightning's long-term success might just be tied to Stamkos, 21, and Hedman, who turns 21 on Dec. 18.

Stamkos' 112 goals since 2009-10 are a league best. Hedman, at 6 feet 6, 229 pounds, is turning into a defensive force and entered Wednesday averaging 22:55 of ice time.

"There's been some games early here in the season when just his skating, his reach and his strength — I don't know about you — but I sat there and said, 'That's pretty impressive,' " Yzerman said.

The best part, he added about Hedman and Stamkos, "Their best years are ahead of them. As long as they continue with the work ethic that they have and the drive that they have, they're just going to get better and better. We have to continue to add good, young players."

HOMECOMING: Yzerman got a standing ovation at Joe Louis Arena when he was shown on the scoreboard after a first-period video tribute.

It was his first trip to Detroit with the Lightning since leaving the team for which he played for 23 years and won three Stanley Cups.

"I appreciated it," he said of the reception. "It was short and sweet and let's get on with the game."

DOWNIE RETURNS: RW Steve Downie would not clarify the upper-body injury that kept him out of three games and forced him to see an outside doctor. He did say it was "good to be back" in the lineup.

MILESTONE: Head athletic trainer Tommy Mulligan worked his 1,000th pro game Wednesday. What is the most gruesome injury with which he has dealt?

"It had to be when I was with Providence," Mulligan said of the AHL Bruins. "Two players collided, and the heel of one stick — it was a wooden stick at the time — broke and was like a spear."

The stick punctured one player high in the groin, Mulligan said, and nicked the femoral artery: "It was pretty nasty. I used my belt as a tourniquet to stop the bleeding."

Mulligan, 37, has been with the Lightning for 10 years.

ODDS AND ENDS: Vinny Lecavalier's assist on Stamkos' goal gave the captain 450 in his career . … W Ryan Shannon and D Bruno Gervais were scratched.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@tampabay.com.

Tampa Bay Lightning signs defenseman Victor Hedman to five-year extension 11/30/11 [Last modified: Thursday, December 1, 2011 12:23am]
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