BriseBois & Stamkos both express desire to keep The Captain in Lightning

The Tampa Bay Lightning wrapped up the 2023-24 season Wednesday morning with exit interviews at AMALIE Arena. Aside from recapping the regular season and postseason, much of the discussion surrounded Bolts captain Steven Stamkos, who enters the offseason in need of a new contract and is set to become an unrestricted free agent July 1.  

Money? Legacy? Stanley Cup? What is it that Steven Stamkos wants most?

“Obviously, Steven Stamkos needs a contract, and we want him to be part of that group,” said Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois. “You all saw how from the trade deadline on, Stammer elevated his play, which was incredible to see.

“For someone who you could say has already earned his Hall of Fame plaque, has accomplished so much already and has been accomplishing so much for so long, for him to play arguably the best two months of hockey of his career, because it started around the trade deadline and he carried it all the way through the series against the Panthers, for him to do that at the time when our team needed it most was incredible.

“You were all able to see how he lead on the ice. What’s hard to see is how he also elevated his leadership game off the ice. Last summer, for various reasons, a lot of leadership left our team and nobody in our group raised their leadership more than Steven Stamkos did to fill that void. That’s harder for all of you and even for me, because I’m not in the locker room and not there all the time, to see. But that’s the case.

“We have a saying in our organization. I think it was coined by our CEO Steve Griggs. I’m going to give him credit regardless. We strive for excellence with humility.

Steven Stamkos has always represented excellence with humility and never more so than these past few months. The aim is for him to continue to play on a contending Tampa Bay Lightning team going forward.”

GM Julien BriseBois’s 

At the start of the season, BriseBois said contract talks with the Lightning’s all-time leader in games played, goals and points would be put on hold until the offseason.

Stamkos didn’t let that affect his play, finishing the regular season with 40 goals and 81 points before leading Tampa Bay in goals during the playoffs, scoring five in as many games.

“When you don’t have control of the situation, I think you just have to come to terms with that,” Stamkos said Wednesday morning. “For sure, there were times throughout the year when you think about those things and in private conversations with friends and family and mentors and things like that.

“But, for me, I tried to leave that at home and, when I came to the rink, it never crossed my mind. It was just go out there and play and try to help our team, just like I’ve always done.

“That was something that I told Julien at the beginning of the year, when we said that there was going to be no contract talks, that you won’t have to worry about that affecting how I prepare or how I play or that coming into the locker room. I said what I needed to say at the beginning of the year and that was kind of it.”

Over the past few years, when Stamkos has reached milestones such as 1,000 career games and 500 career goals, he has talked about the importance of achieving said milestones with one team. On Wednesday, he reiterated his desire to play for one organization throughout the entirety of his career.

“For sure,” Stamkos said. “I’ve talked about it before. My perspective hasn’t changed. I’m hopeful that something obviously works out here because I do love it here and I still think that we have a chance to win with the group of guys that we have here.

“We’ll see what’s in store the next couple weeks, but my philosophy hasn’t changed.”

Since beginning his career with the Lightning in 2008, a lot has changed for Stamkos and the city of Tampa, as well. Whether it’s all the development on Water Street or the growth of the fanbase sparked by consistent excellence on the ice, Stamkos has seen it all. And it’s something he appreciates and cherishes.

“This city means a lot,” said Stamkos. “That was my 16th season here. It’s crazy to really think about it. It certainly doesn’t feel that way from a physical or mental perspective because I still love coming to the rink every day and I love interacting with the fans.

“Everything that is hockey in this city is amazing and I love it. 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.”

A main priority for Stamkos has always been winning. With two Stanley Cup rings in his trophy case, the Markham, Ontario native remains hungry for more. Thankfully for Bolts fans, he firmly believes that opportunity to win is still very much alive in Tampa.

Steven Stamkos

“I think, at the end of the day, winning is still what fuels me,” explained Stamkos. “Being a big part of that culture fuels me. Obviously, certain things have changed now. I have an amazing young family that has put roots down in this city and I really enjoy living here and playing here.

“From that perspective, the decision is more than just me now. That’s something that is amazing for me to be able to have that and be in that situation.

“There’s different factors than there were last time (I was at the end of my contract), but nothing’s really changed in terms of my mindset and where I wanted to be and play and that was here. That certainly hasn’t changed.”

“I think the window is certainly open when you have some of the premier players at every position,” Stamkos added. “You look at all the teams that have won the Cup in the last five years. You talk about really good defensemen, an elite goalie, elite forwards. We have all that.

“You need complementary pieces for sure and you need some depth. Looking back, I thought guys that needed to step up, especially during that stretch of trying to make the playoffs, did.

“Guys are going to continue to grow. You look at Hagel and you look to Paul and those guys and the roles that they’ve come into this team. You look at the back end and how many guys played their first NHL game this year. The goaltending situation, Jo carried us those first 20 games before Vasy came back.

“There is a lot of things that, I think as you progress, guys gained a lot from this year too. That’s what allows that to keep that window open too.”

Lightning fans know, Stamkos’ best friend throughout his career in Tampa has been Victor Hedman, who will enter the 2024-25 season on the last year of his contract, unless a deal gets done this summer.

Victor Hedman 

Speaking to the media, Hedman admitted the legacy of playing with one team is certainly something he thinks about. Additionally, he touched on wanting to play his entire career alongside Stamkos.

“Absolutely,” Hedman said.  “Like I said earlier, this is all we know. We’ve been here from day one. I’ve been here for almost half my life. I couldn’t picture anything else.

“But it’s a process. It’s a business. Just moving forward here, my thought process is on next season and hopefully I won’t be in the same position as Steven, but you never know. Hopefully we can get something done in the summer. My plan is to retire as a Bolt and hopefully that will come true.

“It would be tough to look at this team without him here. Obviously, the way he’s handled the whole situation and the way he’s played has just been phenomenal. He’s led this team, especially in the playoffs. Five goals, some big-time plays, the physicality, the speed that he played with, it was fun to watch.

“Obviously, that’s great news that they’ll try to get something done here soon.”

BriseBois told media he already spoke with Stamkos after arriving back in Tampa following the loss in Game 5. The next day, he was chatting with Stamkos’ agent.

BriseBois says he’s “very hopeful” for a deal to get done, as are every one of Stamkos’ teammates that spoke Wednesday. Of all those teammates, Brandon Hagel may have said it best.

“When I look at Stammer, I believe he’s a Bolt for life. That’s just the vibe I get from him.”

The Lightning and Stamkos have plenty of time to hammer out a deal over the next two months. Now, we wait.

Related Posts

Can Craig Berube have a Rick Tocchet-like impact for the Maple Leafs?

With their new man in charge, the Toronto Maple Leafs are hoping they can find instant success under a guy with a winning history. On Friday, the…

Five Potential Free Agent Centers For The Boston Bruins

Some would say that the Boston Bruins overachieved this past season by reaching the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Many pundits had the Bruins fighting for a playoff…

Chicago Cubs vs. Atlanta Braves Series May 21-23: Odds, Starting Pitchers & Predictions

A three-game series between the Chicago Cubs and the visiting Atlanta Braves will start on Tuesday, May 21 at 7:40 PM ET. Cubs vs. Braves Series Info…

Colts division rival shows up on PFF’s strongest, weakest position groups in 2024

Pro Football Focus recently took a closer look at the strongest and weakest position groups in the NFL following free agency and the draft. The Indianapolis Colts…

Offseason checklist for the Buffalo Sabres

The offseason has arrived for all but a handful of teams who are still taking part in the playoffs. Accordingly, it’s now time to examine what they…

Cubs Roster Moves: Swanson, Vazquez, Mastrobuoni, Crow-Armstrong

According to the Cubs’ transactions page, we now know the corresponding move for infield prospect Luis Vazquez’s impending call-up: it’s a set of multiple moves, but he’s kinda…