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Steven Stamkos Ends Speculation, Re-Signs With Lightning

For nearly a year, the Steven Stamkos contract talks looked like they might turn into the Steven Stamkos Sweepstakes.  At the end of the day, the chance for the Tampa Bay Lightning’s captain to win a Stanley Cup sooner rather than later won out over a big pay raise to play elsewhere.

Bob McKenzie of TSN in Canada reported earlier this afternoon that Stamkos will remain with the only franchise he’s ever played for, and will sign an eight-year contract worth an average annual value of $8.5 million a year.  The deal is a $1 million raise over the $7.5 AAV he made on his previous contract.  Since the Lightning are his original team, they were the only ones that could’ve offered an eight-year deal.  Stamkos could talk with other teams before the free agency period began at midnight on July 1, and he had a meeting with the Toronto Maple Leafs a couple of days ago.

Although he could’ve easily received a contract worth an AAV of at least $10 million a year, Stamkos made the decision to sign a new deal with Tampa Bay just two days before he was set to become an unrestricted free agent.  Had he hit the market, he would’ve been the most coveted free agent in NHL history.  The Maples Leafs, Detroit Red Wings, and Buffalo Sabres were considered the front-runners for his services had he hit the open market.  Toronto isn’t too far from his hometown of Markham, Ontario, and Leafs fans had been dreaming of what Stamkos would look like wearing the sweater of the team he grew up watching.  Detroit cleared out $7.5 million in cap space when they traded the rights to forward Pavel Datsyuk to Arizona at last weekend’s NHL Draft.  Datsyuk had already announced he was returning to Russia, so the Wings were believed to be making a push for Stamkos.  Buffalo was rumored to be willing to make an offer of around $12 million a year for the Lightning captain’s services.  There was even chatter that the Vancouver Canucks and New York Rangers were possibly in the running.  Soon after the report, Stamkos himself took to Twitter to announce the news:

And with that tweet, all of the speculation no longer matters, as Tampa Bay retains their captain for the next eight years.  Of course, we’ve talked about how Stamkos will be the first domino to fall in the Lightning’s list of offseason roster decisions.  Now that the Stamkos domino has fallen, the Lightning and general manager Steve Yzerman turn their attention to restricted free agents Nikita Kucherov, Vlad Namestnikov, and Alex Killorn, as well as Ben Bishop and Victor Hedman, who will be unrestricted free agents next summer.  Combine that with the fact that Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Jonathan Drouin, and Andrei Vasilevskiy will be restricted free agents next offseason, and you have a team that still has a ton of important decisions to make over the next calendar year.  But for one day, Yzerman, Stamkos, and the Lightning organization can take a breather knowing that the Steven Stamkos contract negotiations never officially became the Steven Stamkos Sweepstakes.

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