Stamkos' future is uncertain following the loss to the Panthers
Photo credit: The Boston Globe

Could this be Steven Stamkos' final game with the Lightning?

Published April 30, 2024 at 9:54

Is Steven Stamkos' time with the Tampa Bay Lightning coming to an end? The team's exit from the Stanley Cup Playoffs after a five-game series loss to the Florida Panthers on Monday raises questions about the future of the veteran forward.

Since being drafted as the first overall pick by the Lightning in 2008, Stamkos has been a cornerstone of the team for 16 seasons. However, with his eight-year, $64 million contract expiring, the 34-year-old captain may now consider exploring free agency this offseason.

The ongoing speculation about Stamkos and the Lightning's future has been a topic of discussion throughout the season. As early as September, during training camp, Stamkos expressed frustration about not having a contract extension heading into the 2023-24 season.

"To be honest, I've been disappointed in the lack of talk in that regard," Stamkos said at the time. "It was something that I expressed at the end of last year — that I wanted to get something done before training camp started. There haven't been any conversations. I'm ready whenever, so I guess that was something that I didn't see coming."

Several months later, general manager Julien BriseBois addressed the speculation surrounding Stamkos and the Lightning's future. He discussed the team's intentions regarding Stamkos and outlined potential next steps moving forward.

«After the season, we're going to sit down and we're going to evaluate where we are as a team and where Steven is and we'll see how we can make all the parts work together," said BriseBois in January. "My job is to try to build the team that has the greatest odds of winning a Stanley Cup. So it's never (about) one thing, it's always about the collective.»

Stamkos, hailing from Markham, Ontario, boasts an impressive NHL career spanning 1,082 games, during which he's tallied 555 goals and 582 assists. In the recent five-game series against their long-standing rivals, Stamkos showcased his prowess with five goals and one assist. With 50 goals and 51 assists in 127 career playoff games, the two-time Stanley Cup champion has consistently delivered in crucial moments.

After the Lightning's 6-1 defeat in Game 5, Stamkos remained on the bench until the last of his teammates left the ice. While some speculated it might be a symbolic farewell, Stamkos clarified that he wasn't contemplating his future during those final minutes of play.

"Never crossed my mind," said Stamkos. "I'm out there battling to try and help our team win, regardless. At the end of the game, we're trying to score. There's some pride on the line for our group."

In contrast, head coach Jon Cooper openly expressed his desire for the franchise stalwart to return for the upcoming season.

"He belongs here; we know it, he knows it," said Cooper. "... He and I have grown up together, and he's a heck of a player. ... I don't know what's going to happen, but he feels like a Bolt for life."

Source: Did Steven Stamkos just play his last game with Lightning?
April 30   |   61 answers
Could this be Steven Stamkos' final game with the Lightning?

Did Steven Stamkos just play his last game with the Lightning?

Yes4167.2 %
No2032.8 %
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