Much has been made about the Tampa Bay Lightning‘s buyout of longtime veteran Vincent Lecavalier, with many viewing the transaction as a sign the team’s ready to trend younger. If that’s truly the case, they should waste no time extending Steven Stamkos.
Like Victor Hedman, Brett Connolly and Mike Angelidis, Stamkos represents the younger core of the Lightning, and the foundation for what this organization hopes to build moving forward. The only issue is that he’s set to become an unrestricted free agent following the 2015-16′ season.
With three seasons remaining on a five-year, $37.5 million contract, now would be a great time for the Lightning to offer Stamkos an extension. They’ve already locked up other key pieces, such as Keith Aulie, Radko Gudas, J.T. Brown, Jonathan Drouin and Ben Bishop earlier this summer. Now it’s Stamkos’ time.
2008′s No. 1 draft choice, Stamkos has plenty left in the tank. He’s an offensive threat all over the ice for the Lightning, something his team-leading 29 goals in 2013 are a testament to. He posted 57 points that season as well, ranking second on the club behind Art Ross Trophy winner Martin St. Louis.
Prior to the lockout shortened season, Stamkos had three straight 40+ goal and 90+ point seasons dating back to 2009-10. His 2011-12 season was something to watch, as he became the first player since Alexander Ovechkin to notch 60 goals. That led not only the Lightning but also the NHL, resulting in a second Rocket Richard Trophy before the age of 23.
Judging by those numbers, Stamkos certainly deserves an extension. But at what cost? Could the Lightning try signing him to a maximum length deal like the one recently given to Colorado Avalanche forward Gabriel Landeskog? That’s definitely something worth exploring.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Lightning approach this. Do they lock him up now or wait until next summer? Whatever they decide, Stamkos deserves an extension before his current contract expires. That much is a no-brainer.