Could this be Stamkos’ final season?

by Gary Shelton on October 13, 2023

in general

Hard to imagine Stamkos leaving./TIM WIRT

Friday, 4 a.m.

He has grown up here. He started as a ball of potential, and he grew into manhood, into stardom, into captainship. He won championships here, and he overcome injuries, and he watched a locker room revolve around him. He has scored 515 goals, and he has 542 assists, and he bound for the Hall of Fame. Has been the face of franchise, the voice of the locker room, and he has made millions.

Still, there is a question about Steven Stamkos.

Could this be his last ride?

As the Bolts enter their season, that is the question that lingers with Stamkos. He doesn’t have a contact beyond this year, and his team has let veterans go for years because of salary cap constraints. For most of his career, Stamkos had the look of a lifer; still, you have to wonder: could Stamkos be next?

The Lightning has not entered serious talks about a new contract with Stamkos. Could he be another Tyler Johnson, another Ondrej Palat, another Alex Killorn? The world of sports often has no room for sentimentality, and no, Stamkos doesn’t score with the frequency he did in his 60-goal season.

Still, it would be a shame. When Stamkos pauses to address the state of the Lightning, good or bad, he makes sense. When he winds up from the circle, he makes goals. I’m not sure I’ve seen enough of that, yet.

If you weigh his entire career, Stamkos is up there with Derrick Brooks and Evan Longoria, with Warren Sapp and Marty St. Louis, with Ronde Barber and John Lynch, with Mike Evans and Nikita Kucherov. He’s on the short list of great athletes this team has said.

Part of you has to believe the Lightning and Stamkos reach a deal. They have meant too much to each other for it to end with different teams and different jerseys.

But it’s hard to blame general manager Julian BriseBois, either. He has a team to run. Nothing wrong with taking your time to make the right decision.

That means that much of next year depends on this year. Stamkos needs to be a solid  scorer, and the Lightning needs to get out of the first round of the playoffs.

Oh, he’ll live in memory. And his number will be in the rafters.

But on the ice? For Stamkos, that’s the real reward.

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