Steven Stamkos’ Future in Limbo After Last Lightning Trade

Tampa Bay Lightning captain and upcoming free agent Steven Stamkos might leave the team after the McDonagh trade.

Getty Tampa Bay Lightning captain and upcoming free agent Steven Stamkos might leave the team after the McDonagh trade.

The Tampa Bay Lightning completed the first high-profile transaction of the NHL offseason by trading for Ryan McDonagh on Wednesday, May 22. That move, however, might push Steven Stamkos out of Florida.

The Lightning were facing a significant challenge in re-signing their captain Steven Stamkos before the trade for former Tampa Bay defenseman McDonagh. Adding him to the roster will only add more difficulty to the Stamkos issue.

General Manager Julien BriseBois has expressed confidence in the team’s ability to retain Stamkos despite the cap constraints and the addition of McDonagh.

“We still have some cap space. Steven Stamkos isn’t signed yet. That’s ongoing. We’re still able, in my mind, to get something done that makes sense for the organization with Steven even after acquiring Ryan McDonagh,” BriseBois said on May 21, via Tampa Bay Lightning beat reporter Chris Krenn. “Depending on what happens with other players, we’ll address other needs. We still have some cap space to get done what I think we need to get done this offseason.”

With Tampa Bay absorbing McDonagh’s $6.75 million cap hit, the Lightning now have approximately $5 million in projected cap space for the next season, according to CapFriendly.

Lightning’s Trade for Ryan McDonagh Could Make Stamkos’ Extension Difficult

The Nashville Predators sent McDonagh’s full salary to Tampa Bay without having to retain any money. That leaves the Lightning with very limited room for signing Stamkos.

The Lightning have two open forward spots on their roster. One of those spots, presumably, is reserved for Stamkos if/when he signs an extension.

“[Negotiations] are ongoing,” BriseBois said on May 21, via Chris Krenn. “It would be unfair to characterize. I don’t think anything’s changed.

“Steven was upfront saying he wanted to stay. That’s his strong preference. I’ve mentioned that’s our strong preference as well. Now, we’re still working on how do we make this happen for it to make sense for both sides.”

Assuming the Lightning signs another forward for the league minimum of $775,000, the most the team could offer Stamkos would be an average annual value (AAV) of $4.25 million. Stamkos has not earned less than $7.5 million in any season under a standard (non-entry-level) contract starting in 2011-12.

According to Evolving Hockey’s contract projections, Stamkos could command around $8.5 million AAV on the open market. That’d double the aforementioned figure.

Steven Stamkos Will Become an Unrestricted Free Agent on July 1

Stamkos is set to enter free agency this summer after 16 seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning unless both parties agree to an extension.

The 34-year-old captain, who will be 35 next season, is about to complete an eight-year, $68 million deal expiring at the end of June 2024.

Throughout his tenure with the Florida-based franchise, Stamkos has led the Lightning to four Stanley Cup Finals. The team secured championships in 2020 and 2021 but fell short in 2015 and 2022.

Stamkos was drafted first overall in the 2008 NHL Draft. He made an immediate impact, debuting that same season. Over his career, he has played 1,082 regular-season games, amassing 555 goals and 582 assists for a total of 1,137 points. In the postseason, he has recorded 50 goals and 51 assists in 128 games.

Talking to reporters during his exit interview on May 3, Stamkos sounded positive about signing an extension to stay in Tampa Bay. One of the reasons is the amount of wins the franchise has amassed with him in a leading role.

“We’ll have to have those discussions, but I’m certainly excited that we’re going to have those. Then we can go from there,” Stamkos said. “At the end of the day, winning is still what fuels me. Being a big part of that culture fuels me.”

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