Steven Stamkos and Lightning begin contract talks

Throughout the entirety of the season, the question has been whether or not Steven Stamkos would remain a Bolt after the season ended.

Stamkos to return for Lightning on Thursday night

“I’ve always said I think he’s going to go down as one of the best captains in the world.”

When the team plane landed in Tampa late Monday night after their first round loss to the Florida Panthers, GM Julien BriseBois approached Stamkos about his interest in an extension. He then reached out to Stamkos’ agent to feel out when formal negotiations could begin.

When you think of the Tampa Bay Lightning, you think of Steven Stamkos. At 18-years old he was the No. 1 pick in the 2008 NHL draft, 16 years later he’s the captain of the team and the face of the Lightning franchise.

He’s earned the overwhelming respect and admiration of the Lightning fanbase, and when you ask Stamkos about his time in Tampa, the feeling is mutual.

“This city means a lot to me. I love coming to the rink every day and i love interacting with our fans. Everything that is hockey in this city is amazing and I love it,” Stamkos told reporters at exit interviews.

“Everyone’s been great to me and my family over the years. To start something from where we were my first year to where we are now, it’s almost night and day in terms of what this city and hockey mean to each other. It’s been fun to be part of that and see it all the way through and like I said, hopefully more.”

Stamkos has proven his ability to continue playing at a high level, recording his seventh 40-goal season this year. He was undoubtably the Lightning’s best player in the first round of the playoffs, scoring five goals and making him the third player in franchise history to reach 100 postseason points.

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“He’s been great the whole season, especially in the playoffs. He was our best player,” said goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy.

“The guy has such skill and such experience. There’s no question he’ll go out there and he’ll do his best for the team. Just a great captain, a great leader. Always there for the guys. Can’t say enough good things about him. Just a great guy and great player. I hope he’ll stay here until he wants to retire.”

Vasilevskiy was one of the many Lightning players who spoke highly of Stamkos’ leadership during exit interviews.

“We’re all looking up to him, and he’s bringing this group together and also showing it on the ice. It’s incredible,” said Brandon Hagel.

“I’ve always said I think he’s going to go down as one of the best captains in the world.”

Despite their first round exit the past two years, Stamkos believes the Lightning aren’t far from contending for another Stanley Cup. GM Julien BriseBois believes Stamkos will play a large part in that.

“We strive for excellence with humility,” said BriseBois. “Steven Stamkos has always represented excellence with humility, and never more so than these past few months. And the aim is for him to continue to play on a contending Tampa Bay Lightning team going forward.”

Stamkos remains the Lightning’s career leader in points (1,137) and goals (555), a seven-time All-Star and a two-time winner of the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy.

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