TAMPA (FOX 13) - One of the Tampa Bay Lightning's biggest offseason questions has been answered: Team captain Steven Stamkos is staying with the team after signing a new eight-year contract.
"Excited to be back for 8 more years," he tweeted late this afternoon. "Here we go."
Stamkos was set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the week. Team GM Steve Yzerman had repeatedly insisted that he wanted to resign Stammer to a lifetime deal in the range of $8.5-million per year. But observers speculated that salaries on the open market could have been as high as $10-million or $11-million.
Instead, the two-time NHL scoring champ chose to stay with the franchise that selected him with the No. 1 pick in the 2008 draft.
"Time and time again, he's said to us, the media, that there's no place he wants to play except Tampa Bay," FOX 13's Merissa Lynn said last week.
TSN's Bob McKenzie first reported the news, adding that the deal is indeed in the $8.5-million range sought by Yzerman. That would suggest the team still has the cap space to re-sign other free agents.
Ben Bishop's fate, though, remains up in the air. After the way Andre Vasilevskiy stepped up in this year's playoffs, the Bolts' may not need to hang onto Bishop -- especially if they want to get something in return for him. In next year's expansion draft, every team in the NHL will only be able to protect one goalie.