The Tampa Bay Lightning debuted captain Steven Stamkos during their game seven appearance against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night – but despite his return to the lineup being too little, too late to help them reach the Stanley Cup Final, the team plans to remain on course to try and retain him this summer.
Per Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times, Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said that the team’s goal is to retain Stamkos this summer. “That hasn’t changed,” he confirmed.
With 36 goals and 64 points through his 77 regular season games this year, Stamkos was the team’s second highest scoring forward during the 2015-16 season, coming in behind only winger Nikita Kucherov. He’s a pending free agent this summer, so there have been questions about whether or not he’ll be testing the UFA market in July to try and land a more lucrative deal somewhere outside of Tampa – but if the team’s management staff is to be believed, the goal will ultimately be to ensure that a deal is locked up before that becomes a problem.
The question, of course, will be whether or not the team is able to accomplish this from a financial standpoint. There are still lingering concerns regarding the amount of cap space the Lightning will have next year, and Stamkos likely won’t come cheap.
Still, it’s good news that the Lightning are at least trying to remain optimistic. It may not be the easiest deal they pull off, but it’s still possible – so hearing that the team still wants to get it done may help some fans rest easy after a disappointing departure from the postseason.