Lightning owner gives Yzerman ‘green light’ to re-sign Stamkos

Drew Doughty and Steven Stamkos discuss their aspirations to be part of World Cup 2016, giving them even extra motivation to have good 2015-16 campaigns.

Money, it appears, will not be an object for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

When it comes to Steven Stamkos and the most scrutinized contract negotiation of 2015-16, Lightning owner Jeff Vinik said he has given general manager Steve Yzerman the “green light,” financially speaking, to re-sign the captain to a deal that’s “best for the long-term interest of this franchise.”

“I love watching Steven Stamkos play. I’m not worried about him,” Vinik told those gathered at Sunday’s Fan Fest at Amalie Arena, via the Tampa Bay Times.

“He’s a great player, great leader, great person. I hope he’s with this organization for a long time to come.”

Stamkos, 25, is entering the final season of contract that carries a $7.5-million salary cap hit. He would be justified in asking for an eight-year (maximum) extension in the ballpark of the $84 million deals given to Chicago Blackhawks stars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews last summer.

The star centre, who has four 40-goal seasons to his name, told reporters in Tampa this month that he and Yzerman are in the “middle stages” of extension talks.

Over the next two summers, the Lightning — the reigning Eastern Conference champions — must also make decisions on core players Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Alex Killorn, Jonathan Drouin, Nikita Kucherov and Ben Bishop, all of whom will be due for new deals by July 2017.

“I have confidence in both guys,” Vinik said. “Steve, as I said, is one of the best managers in the league, and Stamkos is one of the best players in the league.”

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