Today marks the beginning of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 2023-24 campaign and with training camp getting underway with media day, there already seems to be a large story brewing. Steven Stamkos is entering the final year of his current contract and has expressed his disappointment that there have been no talks to try and get something done ahead of training camp.
Stamkos stated that he was “disapointed in the lack of talk” (regarding an extension) over the offseason. Stamkos added that he expressed at the end of last season that he would like to get something done ahead of training camp. Obviously, that time has come and there is no extension in place.
With still some time until the regular season gets underway on October 10th, Stamkos added that he is “ready whenever” regarding discussing a new deal, despite it not being when he initially anticipated.
Stamkos has stated on numerous occasions that he intends to play out the remainder of his career in Tampa. The good news is that stance has not changed as this was once again reiterated today.
Stamkos’ eyebrow raising quotes probably could have helped speed up the process of activating contract talks here before the regular season begins. Players have done this before by going to the media and then seeing some sort of contract come shortly after. General Manager Julien BriseBois would throw cold water on that idea when he spoke at media day, emphasizing that the team will have to gather information based on how the season plays out before moving forward.
Part of the delay in contract talk is likely due to the uncertainty that still revolves around the salary cap’s anticipated increase next season. Tampa Bay will be tight up against the cap next season and the lack of clarity on the cap ceiling makes it hard to pinpoint where Stamkos can fit in. BriseBois has likely been holding off until having more clarity on where the cap numbers may be next season before approaching Stamkos regarding a new contract.
Essentially BriseBois is going to wait and see how Stamkos does this season before committing to him. BriseBois stated as well that the Lightning have to spend their dollars as wisely as possible in order to remain a Stanley Cup contender. This is a completely responsible stance from BriseBois as his goal is to keep this team a contender for as long as possible. If committing to Stamkos now compromises that goal in his view, then it is fair for him to make the call to wait.
Some of the frustration on Stamkos behalf could relate to the fact that the Lightning gave Brandon Hagel an extension this summer. Hagel’s contract showed a clear belief that the cap would be going up soon. Their situations are very different but Stamkos likely feels that the team could have at least begun conversations under the same belief that the cap will be increasing soon, like they did with Hagel.
BriseBois and Lightning management now have the ball in their court but it looks like they are going to punt it down the road. It looks like Stamkos will begin the season without a contract, and it could be something that looms over this team all season. It seems like we now have 2016 on our hands all over again.