Smashville steals Steven Stamkos

Steven Stamkos signed with the Nashville Predators after contentious negotiations come to an end with the Lightning.
Steven Stamkos
Steven Stamkos / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

Yesterday, Bolts Nation was stunned by the news that their captain had been signed by the Nashville Predators. Stamkos' tenure with the Lightning is nothing short of legendary. Since being drafted first overall by the Bolts in 2008, he has become one of the NHL's premier scorers, amassing seven 40-plus goal seasons and two Rocket Richard Trophies.

In his 16-year tenure with the team, Stamkos played in 1,082 regular season games, scoring 555 goals and 582 assists, while also leading the team to four Finals appearances and winning two Stanley Cups back-to-back in 2020 and 2021. In 128 playoff games with the team, Stamkos notched 50 goals and 51 assists, playing a crucial role in the Lightning's consistent success for over a decade.

For Tampa Bay, this marks the end of an era. Stamkos' departure will undoubtedly leave a significant void both on and off the ice. As the team's captain since 2014 (10th in franchise history), his presence in the locker room, clutch performances in critical moments, and mentorship to younger players are irreplaceable. The Lightning will now face the daunting task of moving forward without one of the NHL's best captains and leaders.

The reaction from fans has been a mixture of surprise, disappointment, and gratitude. Social media is filled with tributes to Stamkos, as fans reminisce about his greatest moments and express thanks for his contributions to growing the game of hockey in Florida. Despite the initial shock, there's a collective recognition of the business side of sports and an understanding of Stamkos' right to seek a more favorable contract on the open market than those offered by the Lightning.

It was reported that the Lightning offered Stamkos an eight-year contract worth $24 million dollars ($3 million annually/AAV). While the captain may have been open to a hometown discount, an average of $3 million per year seemed almost disrespectful for a player of his caliber, well below market value— especially following a stellar 81-point season.

The final deal offered was surprising not just for it's low dollar amount but also because it would have extended until he turned 42, given his current age of 34. Stamkos' choice to sign a 4-year, $32 million deal in Nashville makes much more financial sense, despite him joining a significantly less experienced team and, in my opinion (apologies to Nashville fans), greatly reducing his chances of winning more cups.

At the end of the day, hockey is a business, and many fans understand Stamkos taking the better deal. Management's goal was to make the team younger, and replacing Stamkos with the recent signing of a proven 29-year-old playoff performer like Jake Guentzel achieves that. The core remains intact, and the Lightning have purposefully signed Guentzel to a long-term deal. It will be intriguing to see how he integrates into the top power play unit alongside Kucherov and Point.

The Lightning's power play has consistently ranked among the league's best, thanks largely to the dominance of Stamkos, Point, and Kucherov together. Stamkos and Kucherov possess wicked one-timer shots from the left and right sides, while Point, despite his smaller stature, utilizes his soft hands and quick release to excel in the bumper spot. Many are curious to see if Guentzel's addition on the left side can replicate the power play's past success.

As the dust settles on this shocking move, one thing is certain: Steven Stamkos will always hold a special place in the hearts of Tampa Bay fans, and his legacy with the Lightning will endure, no matter where his journey takes him next. In a heartfelt tweet, he thanked fans and shared how challenging it is for him to say goodbye to his home of 16 years: