On Wednesday, June 29, the Tampa Bay Lightning announced that they had re-signed Steven Stamkos to an eight-year, $68 million contract. This came just two days before the opening of free agency, and many had been wondering if Stamkos would find himself entering the free agent market.
Throughout the season there had been questions about when a deal would be finalized. And as the regular season came to an end and the playoffs began, the conjecture only increased. As the start of free agency hovered every closer, there was some speculation as to whether or not Stamkos would ultimately become the hometown hero and sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs once he became an unrestricted free agent. Only those in on the negotiations will ever know how close that came to happening because, despite numerous questions on Thursday from the media, Stamkos insisted on remaining mum on the entire negotiation process. He cited his respect for the process. In fact, though it was known that he had met the mayor of Toronto, he wouldn’t even comment on that experience.
“For me, like I’ve mentioned quite a few times throughout the year, that my intention all along was to hopefully work something out with Tampa,” Stamkos told media. “You know, it’s been a great eight years that I’ve been there. I grew up, as a kid there, and this team is on the verge of hopefully competing for Stanley Cups for years to come.”
Another aspect of the negotiations that had become knowledge was the fact that Stamkos left money on the table. In a world where most people are out to get the most money possible, it was nice to see that the decision for Stamkos wasn’t just about the money, but included other aspects of his past relationship with the team and where he saw things moving forward.
“Well, I think you understand the process that for me, some people when they’re in this position chase the most money possible. I understood that there could have been some money left out there but for me, that’s not what it’s all about,” Stamkos shared. “It’s about going to an organization that I was comfortable with and something that gave me the best chance to win in my mind and it was a very tough decision, it truly was. I can’t sit here and say that this past week has been fun. I’m sure everyone experiences different things when they go through free agency and through the process but it was pretty stressful to be honest. So I’m glad it’s over with and I’m very happy with my decision and I’m looking forward to winning a lot in Tampa.”
When the agreement was announced on Wednesday the Lightning’s vice president and general manager, Steve Yzerman shared his thoughts.
“We are very appreciative of the effort and commitment that Steven and his representatives have exhibited in getting a deal done,” Yzerman said. “We are excited to have him as a cornerstone part of the team for the next eight years as we continue in the franchise’s ultimate pursuit of winning another Stanley Cup.”
As the 26-year-old forward continued to respond to questions, it was evident that the entire process had affected him—perhaps given him a new maturity.
“It was an experience. You know I think I got stronger as a person and as a player and how to deal with some of that stuff. I think I did the best job I could to leave that stuff from creeping into the dressing room.,” he expressed. “You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t think about it, but at the same time you live and learn through your experiences. I feel fortunate to have gone through that experience and ultimately been able to make the decision on my own and in my mind make the right choice.”
“In my mind [I made] the right choice.” — Steven Stamkos