Lightning star Steven Stamkos at peace with not having new contract done

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TORONTO — Tampa Bay forward Steven Stamkos is sleeping comfortably at night while Lightning fans are tossing and turning about him not having a contract extension in place with the NHL team. 

It’s possible that Stamkos may not have a new deal before training camp begins next week. But the 25-year-old Markham, Ont., native is at peace with the situation as talks between his agency, Newport Sports, and the Lightning continue.

“We’ll see,” Stamkos said. “It could happen tomorrow, it could happen next week. If not, then you get into camp and then you deal with it then and you have discussions.”

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Stamkos said he and his representatives hadn’t yet made a decision about whether they’ll negotiate during the season.

He’s owed US$5.5 million this season and carries a salary-cap hit of $7.5 million. Stamkos also has a no-movement clause for this part of his contract.

The conventional wisdom is that Stamkos will eventually end up with a deal close to the matching $84-million, eight-year contracts Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane got from the Chicago Blackhawks a year ago.

Those cornerstone players have led the Blackhawks to three Stanley Cups in six seasons. As captain, Stamkos helped the Lightning to the Cup final this past spring but did so as a second-line winger.

The emergence of Tampa Bay’s “Triplets” line of Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov pushed Stamkos down the lineup, and it makes this contract negotiation more complicated than it looks at face value. Those players will need new deals in the next few years too. 

Stamkos called negotiations “professional” but private. As they’re ongoing, he’s training and getting ready to get back onto the ice with his Lightning teammates.

“It hasn’t really affected the way I’ve approached this summer or affected the way I approached this season,” Stamkos said Tuesday at the NHL/NHLPA player media tour. “I’m still the captain of this team and a guy that’s just as motivated as ever to come back and give another shot at getting into the playoffs and getting as far as we did in the previous year.”

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The No. 1 pick in 2008, Stamkos has 276 goals and 222 assists for 498 points in 492 regular-season games. He has 35 points in 48 playoff games.

If Stamkos goes into training camp without a contract, it’ll hang over the Lightning. Defenceman Victor Hedman is not worried.

“We know there are going to be questions asked, but we’ve done a good job so far to handle the distractions,” Hedman said. “We have a pretty strong leadership group, and we usually keep all the distractions outside the locker-room … I know things are going to take care of themselves one way or another.”

Asked if he was confident about a deal getting done, Stamkos said he didn’t know how long the process would take.

“It’s taken this long already,” Stamkos said. “I don’t think you’re going to hear much about it until something does get done. I think I’m just confident in the ability that I have that, no matter how long it lasts, be able to go through that and not let that affect my play.”

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Stephen Whyno, The Canadian Press

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