A look at Steven Stamkos’ uncertain future with Lightning

    Steven Stamkos is the heart, soul and captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning. But there is at least a slight chance he will be somewhere other than Florida’s west coast when the 2024-25 NHL season begins .

    That seems wrong.

    Stamkos has embodied the Lightning since they made him the first overall pick in the 2008 NHL Draft.

    Now 34 and in his 16th season, Stamkos has 546 goals and 1,123 career points — both franchise records — and has led Tampa Bay to two Stanley Cups. He is also the franchise’s all-time leader in games played (1,074). Stamkos is not what he once was, but he still has 31 goals and 67 points in 71 games this season.

    But Stamkos is also in the last year of his contract, an eight-year $68 million deal with an $8.5 million annual average value, per Spotrac.  

    Despite Stamkos’ standing as the greatest player in Tampa Bay Lightning history, general manager Julien BriseBois said months ago there would be no negotiations with the forward during the season. That means there is a chance Stamkos will become an unrestricted free agent.

    Stamkos has not indicated how he feels about the team’s decision on negotiations.

    This is not unknown territory for Stamkos. He signed his current contract in 2016, but not until June 29, two days before he would have become a restricted free agent and could have signed with another team. 

    But it was well within the period of at least a week before July 1 that potential unrestricted free agents can negotiate with other teams. And Stamkos did, indeed, entertain offers from other NHL clubs before re-signing with Tampa Bay.

    Will that be the case again in 2024?

    That will depend on many things.

    First, of course, with his age and wear and tear —a history of several leg/knee injuries and conditions — he will be taking a major pay cut, no matter where he plays next season.

    Will BriseBois and the Lightning be in a nostalgic mood and do everything they can to bring Stamkos back? 

    How badly does Stamkos want to stay in Tampa Bay? Would he accept a “hometown discount” offer?

    Of course, before any of this is resolved, there will be the playoffs. Tampa Bay appears to be a lock to finish in the Eastern Conference’s first wild-card spot. 

    How would either an outstanding or subpar playoff performance by Stamkos affect things?

    That’s a lot of questions. Unfortunately, we’ll just have to wait and see for the answers.

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