The Tampa Bay Lightning have agreed to terms with restricted free agent Steven Stamkos on a five-year contract, the team announced Tuesday.
Financial details weren't disclosed, but multiple reports said the deal is worth $37.5 million US — a salary-cap hit of $7.5 million per year for Tampa Bay.
"Steven is extremely important to this franchise and is part of the foundation of our hockey team," general manager Steve Yzerman said in a statement released by the team. "We are very pleased to have him signed and look forward to seeing him in a Lightning uniform for years to come."
Stamkos, 21, scored an NHL-best 96 goals over the last two seasons, including a 51-goal campaign in 2009-10 that won him a share of the Rocket Richard Trophy with Sidney Crosby.
Yzerman knows Stamkos brings more than just stellar numbers to the Lightning. "He’s only 21, he’s played three years in the league and his best years are ahead of him," Yzerman said. "The excitement of the big games brings outs the best in him, that’s what I was really impressed with. He’s extremely competitive."
The No. 1 overall draft pick in 2008, Stamkos became the sixth player in NHL history to score 100 career goals before the age of 21.
As a restricted free agent since July 1, Stamkos was permitted to sign an offer sheet with another team, which the Lightning would then have had the choice to either match or receive a package of draft picks as compensation for losing him. Despite speculation that a rival club would make a play for Stamkos, no offer sheet materialized.
Even though players of his calibre rarely, if ever, become available in free agency, the young star indicated he wasn't pursued by another team. "No, not to my knowledge," said Stamkos. "For the most part it was just trying to get a deal done with Tampa."
"I am excited we were able to reach an agreement today," Stamkos said in the statement. "This was obviously very important to me and I appreciate [owner] Mr. [Jeff] Vinik and Steve Yzerman for all their work in the transformation of the franchise as we move forward. There is no place I'd rather be than as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning."
Stamkos said he "never even thought of looking anywhere else". He also stressed that although the deal took longer than expected to be finalized, his goal has always been to remain in Tampa Bay.
Stamkos's $7.5-million annual cap hit is less than the ones Alex Ovechkin ($9.53 million per year), Crosby and Evgeni Malkin ($8.7 million each) received in their second NHL deals.
Stamkos will receive $8 million each of the next four seasons and $5.5 million in 2015-16.