A few weeks from now, Steven Stamkos is going to step on the ice at Amalie Arena and watch the Tampa Bay Lightning raise their third Stanley Cup banner to the rafters. He will then line up at center and start his 14th season with the Lightning.
It’s been a long career already for the future hall of fame forward and all signs point to him having a few more seasons left in him. His current contract runs through the 2023-24 season and he’ll be just 34 years-old at that point. A decade ago that might seem ancient in the hockey world, but Zdeno Chara just signed for another year and he’s 44. Alex Ovechkin re-signed with Washington this summer for four more years at the age of 36.
Stamkos is likely to stay in Lightning colors until whenever he decides the end of his career will be. It hasn’t been the easiest career with the injuries on the ice, and the tragedy off of it. Still, he’s weathered it all and produced when he’s been healthy.
Should he stay healthy for the remainder of his contract he will finish it as the all-time franchise leader in games played, passing Vincent Lecavalier’s 1037 (Stamkos is currently at 841). He already has the goals record firmly in his grasp, but could hit the 500-goal milestone in the next couple of years. The assist title might be out of reach, which just goes to show how good Marty St. Louis was while he was here.
It isn’t out of the realm of possibility that he could chase down St. Louis’ 953 points. In his last full season (2018-19) Stamkos put up 98 points. Right now he needs just 87 to catch Marty. Running shotgun with Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov can help him pile up the points pretty quickly. Along the way, if adds three game-winning goals to his total of 62, he’ll pass St. Louis for that title as well.
The numbers are impressive, but even more so is how he has grown into the role of a leader with this team. When he first showed up as an 18 year-old top draft pick he was slated to be the next great player in the organization. He learned from the veterans before him, Lecavalier and St. Louis. He understood what would be needed in regards to training from Gary Roberts, a teammate for just 30 games.
Four head coaches have provided on-ice instruction while two ownership groups have signed his checks. Four different general managers (yes I’m counting Tom Kurvers brief run as interim GM in the spring of 2010) have dealt with the question of whether they should trade him or not. Luckily none of them have pulled the trigger.
The tides of fandom have ebbed and flowed. Raucous support for a young phenom putting 60 pucks in the net gave way to a low-key grumbling about how he “couldn’t produce in the playoffs”. Steady scoring and an ascension to captain (where he is now the longest-tenured captain in franchise history) offset the complaints about his inability to stay healthy.
Is he the best player on the team right now? No. That title belongs to Nikita Kucherov. Stamkos isn’t even the best center on the team, that would be Brayden Point. Still, he’s the heart and soul of this team. He also provided what will most likely be the iconic goal in Lightning history.
He’s come a long way from the “Seen Stamkos” days. And it’s been a heck of a ride the entire way.
Lightning / Hockey News
It was a pretty good weekend for the Lightning prospects as they won both games they played. First it was a 5-2 win over the Nashville Predators on Saturday as Simon Ryfors put up three points and Amir Miftakhov made 35 saves. Then on Sunday they took down the Carolina Hurricanes prospects 6-5 in the shootout as Clearwater-native Avery Winslow scored just 36 seconds into his first game. Hugo Alnefelt came into the game late and stopped 14 of 16 shots. [Tampa Bay Lightning]
On Saturday we profiled Sammy Walker in our Top 25 Under 25. The speedy center will be spending one more season in Minnesota, but will be a fun addition to the Syracuse Crunch pretty soon. [Raw Charge]
Season preview time. Greg Amundsen over at Puck Luck Analytics takes a look at the Lighting. [Puck Luck Analytics]
One thing with these prospect tournaments that we all hope for is that the players make it through unscathed. There was a scary moment in Traverse City when Detroit Red Wings prospect Jared McIsaac was checked into the boards and momentarily lost conscious. [Brian Hedger Twitter]
With training camps scheduled to start this week, there are still some roster dramas taking place across the league. One of those is in St. Louis where Vladimir Tarasenko is still a Blue. Despite requesting a trade months ago, the talented winger is likely to begin on-ice workouts with the Blues as his GM continues to find the right deal. [St. Louis Post Dispatch]
Phil and the Cup