“I have said repeatedly that it is our hope to reach an agreement with Steven on a new contract at some point, and with 27 games remaining in the season, our entire organization, Steven included, wants to focus on making the playoffs,” Yzerman said on Monday.
The Stamkos situation has dominated an awful lot of the conversation around this team, with a great deal of speculation about potential destinations. Some rumours had all but placed Stamkos with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen just yet.
Last week, the 26-year-old gave those rumour mills a glimmer of hope when he didn’t exactly close the door on waiving his no-movement clause.
“I haven’t even thought about that,” Stamkos said. “I think the answer is we’ll cross that bridge at the time, and I don’t think that time is now.”
But those grasping at straws for a big story will have to wait, as it appears the Lightning really are going to focus on the here and now.
Stamkos has, after all, expressed a desire to remain in Tampa and the Lightning would have to be stupid not to work on signing him to a long-term contract. The player’s agents and the team are currently in negotiations for a contract extension that will prevent him from testing free agency come July 1.
Stamkos is in the final year of a contract that pays him an average annual value of $7.5 million. And if the contracts signed by the likes of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are any indication, the lad from Markham could be worth somewhere in the range of $10 million a year.
Yzerman’s statement on Monday means that he’s willing to bet it all on his player and his team. He’s not hedging things for the future and he’s not trying to protect an investment. He’s trying to win. That vote of confidence should go to along way for the Lightning’s Stanley Cup hopes and it could add an extra layer of gumption when it comes to Stamkos signing an extension.
After all, if this doesn’t pan out, Yzerman could walk away empty-handed. If that doesn’t show he’s serious about this team’s chances, nothing will.