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In the end, it was too hard for Steven Stamkos to leave the Tampa Bay Lightning

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His mind wandered, but Steven Stamkos’ heart always remained in Tampa Bay.

Stamkos, who agreed to an eight-year extension for $68 million dollars, surprised a lot of people around the league when he chose to stay.

I felt in my heart that Tampa was always the place I wanted to stay,” Stamkos said. “It was just following your heart and being loyal to the organization that brought me up and made me the player and person that I am today.”

Stamkos, 26, admitted he could have made more money by leaving. But that wouldn’t have been a bargain

“I grew up as a kid there,” Stamkos said. “And this team is on the verge of hopefully competing for Stanley Cups for years to come and me being the captain and being a leader… I know the process took a lot longer than maybe both parties would have liked, but in every decision in life you want to make the best decision.

“If we want to stay to together, there’s going to be sacrifices for both sides,” Stamkos said. “I believe the core we have understands that.

“Some people chase the most money possible. I realized the situation. There could have been some money left out there, but for me, that’s not what is was all about. I was comfortable this was something that gave me the best chance to win.”

Stamkos admitted there were days when his mind wandered.

“It was a very tough decision, it truly was,” Stamkos said on a conference call. “I can’t say this past week has been fun. It was pretty stressful, to be honest.”

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Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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