Lightning scores big by re-signing Stamkos

by Gary Shelton on June 30, 2016 · 3 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Lightning

Stamkos evidently  likes it here, too.

Stamkos evidently likes it here, too.

Thursday, 5:45 a.m.

All along, we felt that he wanted to go home.

We forgot that he was home.

We thought he missed Tim Horton's and the CN Tower and the Blue Jays and round bacon. We thought he missed in being in hockey's mecca and the brighter lights that go there. In our insecurities, we thought a little more money, and little more family and little more, well, Canada would pull him right out of Tampa.

We forgot that that perhaps he likes the water, and perhaps he loves Kojak's ribs. We forgot how loyal he is to this team, to his team. We forgot all the years he has been here, and how

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Stamkos hasn't had a great year scoring./ANDREW J. KRAMER

Stamkos could have gone other places, as many stars do.

much he loves winning. We forgot that we have Busch Gardens and the Bucs and the Rays and his place among the area sports stars.

This is where Stamkos became a great hockey player.

This is where he will continue it.

Elsewhere, athletes leave. Joe Montana left. Peyton Manning left. Before he came home, LeBron James left. David Price and Josh Hamilton and Marty St. Louis left. Stamkos stayed. Score one for loyalty. Fans will love Stamkos for a long time after this...maybe until his first scoreless game.

“I am excited to move forward with the Lightning today for the next eight years,” said Stamkos. “It’s not often that a player gets the chance to spend his career in one organization and I am hopeful that this agreement sets me on that path with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Most importantly, I look forward to working with my teammates, coaches and our management in our goal of winning a Stanley Cup.”

This was a big day for Yzerman, too. He signed Stamkos without having to pony up more money than everyone. Because of it, everyone with the Bolts wins this one.

“We are very appreciative of the effort and commitment that Steven and his representatives have exhibited in getting a deal done,” Yzerman said upon making the announcement today. “We are excited to have him as a cornerstone part of the team for the next eight years as we continue in the franchise’s ultimate pursuit of winning another Stanley Cup.”

Yzerman said he didn't know he had Stamkos until early Saturday afternoon. But he thinks their future together will be a good one.

“At the age of 26, I believe a player is really entering the prime of their career," Yzerman said.  "They've ben in the league eight years. You gather that experience.  Physically, you're at your peak. You've gained enough experience you see the game a little differently. I think he (Stamkos) is going into his peak,  regardless of what happens statistically. I think Stammer's best years are ahead of him. That's what we're counting on and expecting."

Several times during Friday night's conference call, Yzerman praised Stamkos for "working with us." In other words, he didn't grab every nickel the team had. He left some others so he would have quality teammates.

One thing that has always struck you about Stamkos is his remarkable perspective. He has never been blinded to his team's poor play, or his own, by the final score. He would explain, calmly, where the team was going wrong, or where it was going right.

This, too, seems to be at play in Stamkos' decision. Was it all about money? Was it about a chance to win? Was it about an ultimate form of leadership, taking less so teammates can have more.

Was it about it all? This, Stamkos decided, was the best place for him. Khabibulin left. Marty left. But Stammer stayed.

There is a feel to the way a team fits around a player. We forgot about that, too. The way he can one-time a pass from Tyler Johnson, the way Ryan Callahan absorbs punishment, the way Victor Hedman takes another team's star out of the game. This team has the feel of a team that is flirting with the Stanley Cup. Who knows how long it will be before Toronto is there? Who knows whether Detroit can get off this Peach Bowl run of theirs?

We have seen enough of pro sports to be familiar with athletes who always follow the largest stack of bills. We forgot the Stamkos is not one of them.

He's ours. He's the Lightning's. He's Tampa Bay's.

Now, and for a long time to come.

Steven Stamkos was the prized free agent on the market.

Steven Stamkos was the prized free agent on the market.

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