Stamkos, 24, was introduced as the 10th captain in franchise history under dimmed lights before the Lightning opened a six-game homestand with a 3-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night at Tampa Bay Times Forum. He has played his entire six-year NHL career with the Lightning since being taken first overall in the 2008 NHL entry draft, earning 409 points and 222 goals in 390 games played.
"It's an honor, obviously not the way I envisioned it happening," Stamkos said. "We have a good leadership core on this team so to be honored like that is pretty special. … It's an honor to wear a letter in the league. But for our team here, we've got a great leadership group brought in. Guys are stepping up into bigger roles."
The announcement added to the positive vibes from Stamkos' return Thursday. The two-time Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy winner had missed the past 45 games after sustaining a broken right tibia Nov. 11 in a loss to the Boston Bruins. He was cleared to play Wednesday after a lengthy rehab process, and he had five shots in 21:03 of ice time against Buffalo goaltender Jhonas Enroth.
Stamkos replaces St. Louis, a winger, as captain after the 15-year veteran was traded Wednesday to the New York Rangers for winger Ryan Callahan and two draft picks.
In the end, the choice of Stamkos was predictable, especially for Lightning coach Jon Cooper.