Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos will enter his 16th season in the NHL not at peak optimism with his team.
The two-time Stanley Cup champion is in the final season of an eight-year, $68 million deal that has a cap hit of $8.5 million. The two-time Rocket Richard winner wanted to wrap up a new extension over the summer.
Instead, there’s been crickets from the other side.
— Kyle Burger (@kyle_burger) September 20, 2023
“To be honest, I’ve been disappointed in the lack of talk in that regard,” Stamkos said. “It was something I expressed at the end of last year to get something done before Training Camp started and there haven’t been any conversations so…”
Stamkos was then asked if he would talk contract during the season. He shrugged.
“I’m ready whenever,” he replied. “I guess that was something I didn’t see coming. It is what it is.”
A few hours later, Lightning GM Julien BriseBois responded to his comments.
“Steven has mentioned publicly and to me that he wants to spend his entire career with the Lightning,” BriseBois said. “I think it would be great for our organization if Steven could spend his entire career with the Lightning. That’s in everyone’s best interest.”
He added, “At the same time, it’s not just about Steven playing out his career in Tampa. It’s about Steven staying in Tampa and the Lightning remaining a legitimate Stanley Cup contender year in and year out for the remainder of his tenure as a player on the club.
“Steven and I share the common goal of bringing the Cup back to Tampa. That’s our objective. In order for us to do that in future years, we’re going to need to spend our cap dollars as wisely as possible.”
There’s no denying Stamkos’s importance and production to Tampa still at age 33. After struggling with injury in the years prior, Stamkos rebounded with a career-high 106-point season in 2021-22 and 84 points in 2022-23.
Any new deal for the two-time 50-goal scorer though is likely complicated by where he’s at in his career and any possible age-related regression that may reveal itself. The Lightning may also want to consider getting younger after being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs last season by the Toronto Maple Leafs and finishing third in the Atlantic Division during the regular season (98 points). Seeing how the campaign plays out may be important to team brass before they make a decision on the future Hall of Famer.
Then there’s the Bolts’ continuing juggling of the salary cap, too. As of today, the Lightning are nearly $6.9 million over the cap, per Cap Friendly, as they head into the 2023-24 season. Though that is mostly a wash due to Brent Seabrook. The defenseman’s $6.875 salary will be able to be buried on long-term injured reserve after he effectively retired in 2021.
What the Lightning decide with Stamkos will likely go a long way in determining how competitive they are in the years to come. Will they want to hold onto their aging core like the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins recently did? Or could some hard decisions be upcoming so they can remain a championship contender?
Screenshot: Tampa Bay Lightning
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