Lightning VP Andreychuk believes Stamkos will stay, unsure about Drouin

Lightning coach Jon Cooper spoke about the impact of Steven Stamkos on the team even while he is off the ice.

The former Tampa Bay Lightning captain sure sounds confident about the future of the current one.

Despite the blood clot in Steven Stamkos’s shoulder keeping his health status at a vague weeks-to-months. Despite the expiring contract and reported turned-down contract offer that began with an eight.

“Steven is going to come back. He’s going to be fine,” Dave Andreychuk told Hockey Central at Noon Wednesday.

“I still believe that [GM] Steve Yzerman is trying whatever he can do to sign Steven Stamkos, and I believe it will happen. Even with all this going on, I think it will happen.”

Andreychuk — the first to hoist the Lightning’s lone Stanley Cup, in 2004 — now serves as vice president of corporate and community affairs for the team, his image immortalized in a statue outside Amalie Arena. It’s his job to sell locals on the team.

Stamkos, who is back skating and travelled with the club to Brooklyn, has been fantastic to that end.

“He understands what it is to be a superstar,” Andreychuk said. “He is the face of the franchise. There’s no doubt in my mind.

“If I have a sick kid in the hospital, he’s on it right away.”

On-ice gifts aside, it’s Stamkos’s character and competitive drive that will make him so attractive to competing franchises if/when he tests the open market on July 1.

Though Andreychuk applauded the ascent of fan favourite Nikita Kucherov — the pending RFA leads all playoff scorers with seven goals — he said it’s not a sign-one-or-the-other scenario.

The Lightning need the Triplets and Stamkos to be contender, he argued.

“You can’t just break things up and hope that it’s going to be successful,” Andreychuk said.

Tampa has already committed $52.2 million in contracts for next season. The cap could hover around its current level of $71.4 million or raise to $74 million.

In addition to monster raises for Stamkos and Kucherov, the Lightning must also shoehorn Alex Killorn (a point per game in this post-season) and a handful of support players under the 2016-17 salary cap.

“That’s not an easy job for Steve Yzerman,” Andreychuk said. “Thankfully our owner [Jeff Vinik] has said to Steve, ‘Whatever the cap is, that’s what you got.’ If we were in any other smaller market, ownership is putting the cap at $60 million, and now you’re in trouble.”

Playing his way out of trouble and back into the hearts of Bolts fans is Jonathan Drouin.

With seven assists and a goal this post-season, the 21-year-old winger has been a revelation since ending his holdout and re-joining the big club.

Even after getting rocked by a clean Thomas Hickey hit Tuesday night, Drouin cleared concussion protocol in time to set up Kucherov’s game-tying goal.

“You gotta give the kid credit. He’s done this ever since his hiatus,” Andreychuk said. “Good for him. I think it’s great for the organization.

“Our fans got very upset at him walking away. I think us inside were very understanding that this kid wants to play hockey. So he sits at home in Montreal and he watches hockey. He’s a different player since he came back. He’s more involved. He’s more aggressive. He’s not taking any shifts off. Jon Cooper wants him to be more responsible defensively, and he’s making an effort to do that. We all make mistakes.”

Andreychuk agrees with the player and his agent that Drouin must be slotted in a top-six role to have success, but if Stamkos and Killorn both re-sign, those six spots will be at a premium on an offence as deep as Tampa’s.

Can the Lightning afford to trade Drouin after he’s proven so valuable? Or will his playoff performance simply help grease a draft-time trade?

“I’m not sure what will happen at the end of the summer,” Andreychuck said, “[I’m not sure] what Steve Yzerman will do, whether there will be some lingering effects of what he’s done prior to the playoffs.”

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