NHL Rumors: Steven Stamkos leaving Tampa Bay? Lightning better without the former No. 1 pick?

NHL Rumors: Steven Stamkos leaving Tampa Bay? Lightning better without the former No. 1 pick?

Steven Stamkos might have played his last game for the Tampa Bay Lightning but the former No. 1 pick is saying that he wants to stay with the team in his upcoming free agency. NHL rumors surround Stamkos this offseason however as he will be linked to teams that has salary cap to try to steal him from Tampa Bay.

“I certainly hope to be back. We obviously have unfinished business here,” Stamkos said via ESPN.com. “This group has been unbelievable; the city has been unbelievable for me. I can’t believe it’s been eight years already. Time flies.”

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Stamkos, who signed a $37.5 million for five years with Tampa Bay in 2011, is an unrestricted free agent this summer and was the NHL’s top pick in the 2008 draft. Being unrestricted, Stamkos is free to sign with another NHL team and he will be included in NHL rumors when free agency opens July 1 later this year.

The Lightning made the Conference Finals of the 2016 NHL Playoffs but fell 2-1 in Game 7 to the Pittsburgh Penguins, who made the Stanley Cup Final. The Penguins will face the San Jose Sharks in the NHL championship round.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, the team has already offered Stamkos a reported $8.5 million per season deal for eight years for the former top pick. The deal would make Stamkos one of the highest players in the league if he accepts the new contract offer.

Stamkos, who is from Markham, Ontario in Canada, played in 77 games in the regular season with 64 points with 36 goals and 28 assists. He played just one game in the 2016 postseason after being diagnosed with an arm injury in April.

The Lightning were successful in the postseason even without their star and as Stamkos hits free agency, NHL rumors of his departure will be part of the headlines this summer.

Photo courtesy: Michael Miller/Wikimedia Commons