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Tampa Bay Lightning's Marty St. Louis believes in Steve Yzerman and his plan

If Lightning star Marty St. Louis holds a grudge against Steve Yzerman for keeping him off Canada's gold-medal Olympic team, it is difficult to see.

St. Louis even said last week, after signing a four-year, $22.5 million contract extension, that Yzerman being named general manager persuaded him to stick with Tampa Bay.

So, let's take as a given St. Louis' declaration that "Tampa was always the No. 1 place I wanted to be" and recall that after last season, the Lightning's third straight out of the playoffs, the right wing said he might ask for a trade if he did not like the direction of the team.

"When I said that, there was nobody in place," St. Louis said, referencing the firing of general manager Brian Lawton.

As for Yzerman, he said, "There couldn't have been a better hire. He's a calm individual. He thinks things through. He didn't promise me we were going to win the Cup in two years, but he has a plan, and he's going to follow that plan."

That is why St. Louis, 35, said he wanted a four-year extension through 2014-15.

"So, if the plan doesn't work right away, it might work in three years or four years. I think we're not far from being a team that can be dangerous every year."

There was some hand-wringing as to how St. Louis' relationship with Yzerman would go.

St. Louis wanted badly last season to play for Canada at the Olympics in Vancouver, and he had the statistics to warrant it. But Yzerman, as the team's executive director, went a different way.

The decision still hurts St. Louis, but he and Yzerman apparently have come to an understanding.

"We talked," St. Louis said. "Everything is good."

St. Louis attended Yzerman's introductory news conference to show his support. And Yzerman called St. Louis, who had 29 goals and 94 points last season and won the Lady Byng Trophy for sportsmanship, "the kind of person we want leading the team."

"He's synonymous with the Tampa Bay Lightning, and he's a good player, and good players are hard to come by, so you do everything you can to keep them in your organization," Yzerman said.

In this case, it is paying St. Louis $5.5 million in 2011-12 and 2012-13, $6.5 million in 2013-14 and $5 million in 2014-15.

If St. Louis, with one year left on his current deal that pays $4 million, plays out the extension, he will be 39 at its end.

That is just fine with center Steven Stamkos, who has flourished on a line with St. Louis and whose 51 goals last season tied for the league lead with Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby.

"It's funny, (St. Louis) told me before (the extension) was announced, and I think I was more excited than he was," Stamkos said.

"His work ethic really rubbed off on me. I have to work even harder just to keep up with him. Without him, I wouldn't be at the level I was at this past season."

Most important for St. Louis, though, is getting back to the playoffs.

Oh, there are other perks, such as playing in a city he, his wife and three boys love. And being able to retire after what he expects will be 14 seasons with the same team.

But in the end, "I signed here because I know that I'm going to have a chance to win again," said St. Louis, one of three leftovers, with Vinny Lecavalier and new signee Pavel Kubina, from the 2004 Stanley Cup team.

"When they hired Steve Yzerman, I said, 'This is great. This is going to get turned around.' I wanted to stay here knowing we had a guy like him at the top to put the ship back in order. I feel like I'm going to be proud again to be a Lightning."

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

Tampa Bay Lightning's Marty St. Louis believes in Steve Yzerman and his plan 07/03/10 [Last modified: Saturday, July 3, 2010 8:02pm]
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