A slip of the thumb.
That’s how Steven Stamkos — hockey’s most coveted free-agent-to-be — explained away his “like” of a tweet Wednesday that asked if the Toronto Maple Leafs should pursue his services.
“It was accidental,” Stamkos told the Tampa Bay Times.
It was also the latest in a series of accidental Twitter taps that have cranked the speculation of Tampa Bay Lightning captain’s future to dizzying speeds.
Stamkos met cameras at Thursday’s morning skate and addressed his heart tap.
“People are going to talk about stuff. I’m not too worried about that,” Stamkos told reporters in Tampa. “I guess when you are in the spotlight — and lots of people have done things accidentally — it probably doesn’t look great. But I’m telling you guys, it was an accident and hopefully this is the last time I have to answer questions about Twitter.”
The 25-year-old native of Markham, Ont., remains without a contract for the 2016-17 season and, on July 1, will become the most talented unrestricted free agent to hit the NHL’s open market in years — unless he inks an extension with the Lightning beforehand.
Negotiations between the Lightning and Stamkos camps have been kept relatively private.
“We’re engaged with Steve Yzerman. And as I say, we have a great relationship with him. And when you get to a point in a career where you have professional decisions to make like this – as you know, the collective bargaining agreement doesn’t really afford you this kind of opportunity that often,” Don Meehan, Stamkos’s agent, told a Toronto radio station last month. “I really think that you have to practice due diligence to the nth degree.”
LISTEN: Nick Kypreos on the Stamkos stalemate // Don Cherry on Stamkos
Stamkos, who has since “unliked” the tweet, is a now a three-time offender when it comes to trolling Leafs fans in the last couple of years.
The star centre also favourited (and later un-favourited) a tweet of a Hockey News story that wondered if he would pull a LeBron James and sign with his hometown team when he hit free agency. And he favorited another tweet that asked him and fellow Toronto native John Tavares to become Leafs.
Those were also accidents, Stamkos said in 2014.
Expect Stamkos to face even more questions about what he likes when the Lightning, who currently sit three points outside the playoff picture, travel to Toronto on Tuesday.
“Whatever happens outside and in the media, that’s for you guys to assume or speculate,” coach Jon Cooper told reporters. “But with our team and inside our locker room, it has no effect.”