We’re not sure the last time a team in contention for the Stanley Cup decided to trade a 60-goal scorer right before the playoff push, but when Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman announced Monday that Steven Stamkos wouldn’t be traded in 2015-16, it came as a relief to the captain.
“It’s been a tough year in that regard to deal with that stuff,” Stamkos told reporters Tuesday (watch above). “So hopefully this lightens the load a little bit. I’ve said all along from training camp that I wanted to be here and I want to win a championship here.”
Hockey’s most coveted impending unrestricted free agent will have at least one more shot. The Lightning currently hold the Eastern Conference’s final wild-card spot, due only to a tie-breaker over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
It should be noted that although it was Yzerman who announced that Stamkos would not be moved ahead of the Feb. 29 trade deadline, that decision ultimately belongs to the player himself. Stamkos, 26, holds a no-move clause and would need to OK a trade.
Pushing trade rumours to the side will help keep Stamkos’s focus on the ice. The forward has 22 goals and 42 points this season but has been very hands-on with contract negotiations and has admitted that he needs to lace up his skates in order to get the business side of the game off his mind.
Media speculation on Stamkos’s future has been persistent this season and would’ve reached deafening levels had the Lightning arrived in Toronto to face the Maple Leafs on Feb. 29 with trade rumours in the air.
“This is a decision by both parties that we thought was the best route on something that I wanted,” Stamkos said. “I’m obviously looking forward to not having to deal with all the questions for the remainder of the season and just focus on hockey and just do my best to help the team win.”
While his stat line is more than respectable, Stamkos’s production has dipped to a level not seen since his rookie season, in 2008-09.
The Lightning came just two wins shy of hoisting the Cup last spring, a defeat that ate at the competitive Stamkos.
“I feel like I have more to give,” Stamkos said. “Maybe this helps just coming to the rink and focusing on my game and what I have to do to lead this team and help this team continue our playoff push.”