The Steven Stamkos watch took a new turn on Wednesday.
Less than 24 hours after Stamkos’ agent, Don Meehan, called the upcoming Feb. 29 NHL trade deadline a “sensitive issue” for his client and the Tampa Bay Lightning in a guest appearance on Sportsnet 590 The Fan Wednesday, the Lightning superstar admitted Thursday that the deadline will help provide some direction regarding his future.
“The trade deadline is coming up in a couple weeks. I’m sure everyone will have some answers in a couple weeks when that comes,” Stamkos said told Joe Smith of The Tampa Bay Times. “We’ve kept everything to ourselves and I know it sucks for you guys (media), I totally understand. But I think you can appreciate the way we’ve conducted doing business and whatever happens in the next couple weeks, there’s obviously going to be some answers.”
Stamkos has publicly stated that he prefers to stay with the Lightning, the team that drafted him first overall in 2008. But with the 26-year-old not under contract for next season, the Lightning risk losing him for nothing this summer if they hold on to him beyond Feb. 29.
Stamkos says he hasn't even thought about the possibility of waiving his no-movement clause.
"I think the answer is, 'We'll cross that bridge at the time, and I don't think it's that time now," Stamkos said. "So I continue to come to the rink everyday as the leader that I am and the teammate that everyone in this room knows that I am, and give my best effort. I've said that since day one of training camp and that hasn't changed."
Stamkos, an Ontario native, has been linked to the Toronto Maple Leafs in rumours, who cleared significant salary cap space Tuesday with the trading of defenceman Dion Phaneuf, says he's going to take his time with this decision.
"That's been the part that I think is good for both sides, that we've kept it internal," Stamkos said. "Obviously a lot of people are guessing and writing stories and stuff like that. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I think for me, it's been something I didn't know what to expect going into this year, I didn't know how long it was going to play out. It's my first time going through something of this magnitude in my career. Like I said before, when you have a decision like this, it takes time. You make sure at the end of the day you make the right decision."
While some players prefer to let their agent handle the specifics of their contract discussions, both Meehan and Stamkos have indicated that the Lightning forward is very involved with the process.
“I don’t want to get into detail of who’s saying what and who’s in those meetings," Stamkos said. "I’m definitely aware of the situation. I’m a guy that likes to be … it’s your career. It’s your life. You’ve got to know exactly what’s going on. You’ve got to do your due diligence.
"It’s going to be a process. That’s how I approach anything in life, whether it’s a decision to buy a house or buy a car. You want to make sure you’re well informed before you make a decision. Obviously, this is a little bigger decision than those things, but just as an example, you want to make sure that everyone’s interests are the best and you go from there.”
Stamkos has 21 goals and 19 assists in 53 games with the Lightning entering Thursday's action.