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Lightning hangs onto star center Steven Stamkos with contract extension

Steven Stamkos is staying home.

Stamkos, after a year’s worth of negotiation, after a mountain of rumors as where he might be going and why, has re-signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Stamkos’ new contract is worth $68 million over eight years.

“I am excited to move forward with the Lightning today for the next eight years,” said Stamkos. “It’s not often that a player gets the chance to spend his career in one organization and I am hopeful that this agreement sets me on that path with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Most importantly, I look forward to working with my teammates, coaches and our management in our goal of winning a Stanley Cup.”

Stamkos had met with the Maple Leafs this week in a meeting that included John Tory, Toronto’s mayor, and Michal B. Medine, the CEO of Canadian Tire. Because it was near his hometown, many felt that Stamkos would lean there or to nearby franchises such as Detroit or Buffalo.

But Stamkos, the captain of the Lightning, never stopped using “we” when discussing the Lightning. He has been here his entire career, and barring a trade, he will be here for the biggest portion of it. He is only 26.

“We are very appreciative of the effort and commitment that Steven and his representatives have exhibited in getting a deal done,” general manager Steve Yzerman said upon making the announcement today. “We are excited to have him as a cornerstone part of the team for the next eight years as we continue in the franchise’s ultimate pursuit of winning another Stanley Cup.”

Since the 2008-2009 season, Stamkos is second in goals to only Alex Ovechkin among active players.

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Former Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk awaits call from the Hall of Fame

To appreciate the Leader, you have to remember the leaderless lot that was the Tampa Bay Lightning.

In those days, it was an aimless, clueless bunch. There were those who suggested the Lightning might be the worst franchise in all professional sports, one of those teams that looked to teenagers to lead.

Then came Dave Andreychuk, who had been quite the player himself.

Andreychuk was an important figure in the history of the Lightning, the man who made it possible for John Tortorella and Vinny Lecavalier to coexist. He was crucial as the Bolts turned it around, as Marty St. Louis and Brad Richards and Dan Boyle became great players, as the Lightning turned into a great franchise. It was Andreychuk who set the tone, established the standards.

Now, it should be Andreychuk’s turn again. Once again, he is up for the Hall of Fame. He has been since 2009.

You might think his selection would be automatic. He has the most power play goals in history. He’s 14th overall. But the years go on, and the Leader has not been invited.

Perhaps he will be this year.

It’s about time.

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Lightning tries to find scorers of the future in the NHL draft

The Tampa Bay Lightning tried to boost their offense during Saturday’s second day of the NHL draft.

A day after drafting center Brett Howden, the Bolts selected four more centers and two wingers.

Tampa Bay traded minor league defenseman Anthony DeAngelo, a former first-round pick, for the right to take Libor Hajek, a defenseman from the Czech Republic. Later in the second round, the Bolts added left winger Boris Katchouk and right winger Taylor Raddysh.

In Hajek, the Bolts got a defenseman it obviously likes more than DeAngelo. The 6-foot-2, 196-pound defenseman skated in 69 games with the Saskatoon Blades of the Western Hockey League last season, recording three goals and 26 points to go along with 76 penalty minutes. He led all Saskatoon rookies for points and assists with 23. The Smrcek, Czech Republic native was selected second overall in the 2015 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft.

With the 44th overall selection, the Lightning drafted Katchouk. The Waterloo, Ontario native played 63 games for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds last season, posting 24 goals and 51 points to go along with 61 penalty minutes.  Katchouk, 18, ranked fourth on the Greyhounds for points and was fifth among all OHL rookies in scoring. The 6-foot-1, 192-pound forward was tied for the team lead with six goals during the 2016 OHL playoffs.

The Bolts selected Raddysh with the 58th pick in the draft. Raddysh, 18, played in 58 games with the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League last season, recording 24 goals and 73 points to go along with 18 penalty minutes. The 6-foot-2, 203-pound forward ranked third on the Otters for scoring. The Caledon, Ontario native opened the 2015-16 season on a nine-game point streak, posting five goals and 14 points over that stretch.

The Lightning selected goaltender Connor Ingram in the third round, 89th overall. Ingram, 19, appeared in 61 games with the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League, posting a 34-15-9 record to go along with a 2.61 goals-against average and .922 save percentage. The 6-foot, 212-pound goaltender ranked fourth for save percentage and seventh in goals-against average in the WHL. The Imperial, Saskatchewan native also tied for fifth in the WHL in shutouts with four.

With the 118th overall pick in the fourth round, the Lightning selected forward Ross Colton from the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the USHL. Colton, 19, skated in 55 games with Cedar Rapids, posting 35 goals and 66 points to go along with 79 penalty minutes. The Robbinsville, New Jersey native ranked second in the USHL in points and goals. The 6-foot, 190-pound forward also  tied for eighth in the league with nine power-play goals.

 The Lightning drafted Christopher Paquette in the fifth round, 148th overall. Paquette, 18, played in 57 games with the Niagara IceDogs of the OHL, registering five goals and 16 points to go along with 18 penalty minutes. The Kingston, Ontario native has recorded 12 goals and 30 points in 111 career OHL games over two seasons with Niagara. Paquette is a cousin of current Bolt Cedric Paquette.

With the 178th overall selection in the sixth round, the Bolts selected defenseman Oleg Sosunov. The Ryazan, Russia native skated in 39 games with Loko-Yunior of the Russia Jr. 2 league, recording four goals and 12 points to go along with 66 penalty minutes. The 6-foot-8, 230-pound defenseman also appeared in three games with Yaroslavl of the Russia Jr. League.

The Lightning selected forward Otto Somppi with the 206th overall pick in the seventh round. Somppi, 18, skated in 59 games with the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, recording 13 goals and 46 points to go along with 25 penalty minutes. The Helsinki, Finland native ranked second on the Mooseheads for goals, assists and points. The 6-foot, 180-pound forward ranked eighth in the QMJHL for points among all rookies.

With their final pick, 208th overall in the seventh round, the Bolts drafted forward Ryan Lohin. The 6-foot, 193-pound forward recorded 23 goals and 57 points in 62 USHL games, splitting time between the Madison Capitols and Waterloo Black Hawks. The Chester, Pennsylvania native tied for eighth in the USHL for points and assists.

There was no new word on either Ben Bishop or Steven Stamkos, although Vancouver might be punished for comments about Stamkos and P.K. Subban of Montreal.

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Lightning picks Brett Howden in draft, but talk is about Steven Stamkos

The Tampa Bay Lightning added forward Brett Howden to their depth Friday night.

Why, then, was all of the discussion about forward Steven Stamkos?

After the Detroit Red Wings traded away center Pavel Datsyuk and his $7.5-million contract to Arizona Friday night, speculation began that the Wings could be trying to make room for Stamkos, who became able to talk to teams at midnight.

If Stamkos goes, it will be difficult for the Bolts to replace him.

Howden, who is 18, is years away from showing he is that kind of player. He does carry the reputation as intelligent and a two-way player. The Lightning have two second-round draft picks today.

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Calgary trades for a goaltender, but it isn’t Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop

At that price, the Tampa Bay Lightning did just fine in holding onto goaltender Ben Bishop Friday night.

The Calgary Flames, supposedly deep enough in trade talks with the Lightning to be discussing contract renegotiation, instead traded for St. Louis goaltender Brian Elliott. They gave their second-round pick, 35th overall, for Elliott and a conditional third in 2018.

Can you imagine if the Lightning had taken the 35th pick for Bishop. Tampa Bay fans would storm Amalie Arena.

The Flames didn’t want to give up their No. 1 pick, spent on Matthew Tkachuk.

Bishop had the better season this year, slightly. He won 35 games (Elliott won 23). He had a .926 save percentage (Elliott was at .930). He had a 2.06 goals against average to Elliott’s 2.06. In other words, Bishop had the edge, but probably not a round’s worth.

Announcers at NBCSN said they still expected Bishop to be traded.

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Lightning hopes to find future stars in tonight’s NHL draft

Once, the Tampa Bay Lightning depended on losing to make their drafts better.

These days, they depend on organization.

The Lightning, in the NHL’s final four each of the last two seasons, have become a strong team organizationally the last few seasons under Steve Yzerman. They have finds such as Tyler Johnson, who was undrafted, and Ondrej Palat, who went in the seventh round.

In tonight’s draft, the Bolts pick 27th, 44th and 58th. That means the Lightning won’t get one of the draft’s biggest names, but they should be able to develop players who will help.

Of course, the draft isn’t the most notable thing the Bolts will do this summer. They will also try to retain Steven Stamkos and Ben Bishop.

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Lightning’s Ben Bishop finishes second in Vezina Trophy voting to Braden Holtby

Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop finished second in the voting as the NHL’s best goaltender.

In the end, however, Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals simply won too many games.

Holtby won 48 games this season and helped his team to the President’s Cup on his way to winning the Vezina Trophy Wednesday night. Bishop won 35, losing 11 when the Lightning scored two goals or fewer. He led the league in save percentage and in goals against. Bishop led the league in save percentage (. 926) and goals against (2.06).

Holtby received 140 points, including 26 first place votes. Bishop had 51, with two first-place votes. Jonathan Quick of the Kings had 36 points and one first-place vote.

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Lightning’s Ben Bishop a finalist for tonight’s voting of Vezina Trophy

For the second straight season, Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning is among the finalists for the year’s best goaltender.

Once again, he is not expected to win.

Bishop, 29, is among the finalists for the Vezina Trophy for the second straight season. However, Washington’s Brian Holtby is the favorite to win. Jonathan Quick of Los Angeles is the third contender.

Bishop led the NHL in goals against average (2.06) and save percentage (. 926). Bishop lost 11 games when allowing two goals or fewer, however. Holtby won the most games (48).

“I would be pleasantly surprised if I won,” Bishop told the Tampa Bay Times. You hear that Holtby has kind of got it wrapped up. I’m not going to expect to win, even though I think I could. He numbers talk for themselves. We’ll see.”

There has been speculation that the Bolts might consider trading Bishop because of his age and salary ($5.95 million per season).

“I expect to be back,” Bishop said. “It’s never really crossed my mind going somewhere else. As far as I’m concerned, I have another year here, and I fully expect to be back. If I’m not, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”

In his last two seasons, Bishop has won 75 games in the regular season and 21 more in the playoffs.

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Lightning announces its 2016-17 schedule, starting with Detroit

The Tampa Bay Lightning has beaten the Detroit Red Wings in the last two playoffs.

This year, the Red Wings will try to get even in the Bolts’ season opener.

Tampa Bay is at home on Oct. 13 to take on the Wings. The Lightning follows with games against New Jersey (Oct. 15), Florida (Oct. 18) and Colorado (Oct. 20).

A six-game road trip follows. In all, Tampa Bay will play 14 of its first 24 games on the road.

The Lightning will play Pittsburgh, the team that ousted it from the playoffs, at home on Dec. 10.

The Lightning concludes its schedule on April 9 against Buffalo.

There is still no word on where star center Steven Stamkos might sign, but if it is in his hometown of Toronto, the teams will play at Amalie on Dec. 29.

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The Lightning says it’s time to get answers from forward Steven Stamkos

It has been the world’s longest negotiation, but things may be coming to a head between the Tampa Bay Lightning and center Steven Stamkos.

Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman told the Tampa Bay Times he hopes to have some clarity on Stamkos by the weekend.

“We’re doing all we can to sign him,” Yzerman said. “What we look like if Stammer re-signs with us, it affects what we can do with our team. For us, we’d like to know sooner than later.

“At some point on other players, I have to make decisions. I’ve got to make decisions and they can’t be put off forever.”

Stamkos is free to start shopping around to other teams on Saturday. He can sign with them on July 1.

“To be honest with you, it’s out of my control,” Yzerman said. “He’s an unrestricted free agent on July 1. I can’t force him to sign a contract with us if he doesn’t want to. If he wants to go to July 1, he has that right.”

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