Lightning say Stamkos won't be traded before NHL deadline
Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) celebrates with teammates after scoring against the Nashville Predators during the third period of an NHL hockey game Friday, Feb. 12, 2016, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning aren't parting ways any time soon.
The team announced Monday that the two-time Maurice Richard Trophy winner won't be moved before this month's trade deadline. The announcement ends speculation that the defending Eastern Conference champions might abandon hopes of signing Stamkos, who has twice been the NHL's top goal scorer, to a long-term contract extension.
Stamkos, who has a no-trade clause in his contract, is in the final year of a deal that pays him about $5.5 million this season. He is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent in July.
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Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman released a statement saying he, Stamkos and the entire Tampa Bay organization are focused on trying to make the playoffs. He said talks on a new contract will continue and remain private.
Tampa Bay is currently in eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings.
''I have said repeatedly that it is our hope to reach an agreement with Steven on a new contract at some point, and with 27 games remaining in our season, our entire organization, Steven included, wants to focus on making the playoffs,'' Yzerman said. ''I will keep the negotiating process strictly between the involved parties and have no further comment on the state of those negotiations.''
Stamkos led the Lightning to last year's Stanley Cup Final, where Tampa Bay lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games. He has 22 goals and 42 points in 55 games this season.
The four-time All-Star was the first overall pick in the 2008 draft. He turned 26 earlier this month and has 298 career goals.