No more waiting: Lightning sign Steven Stamkos to five-year, $37.5 million deal

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If you’ve been sweating things out all summer waiting to see what happens with Lightning superstar restricted free agent Steve Stamkos, your wait is over.

Tampa Bay announced they’ve signed Stamkos to a five-year contract to stick around with the fast-rising Lightning. The Sporting News’ Craig Custance tweets that the deal is worth $7.5 million per year against the cap bringing the total worth of the contract to $37.5 million. The rumors that swirled around the deal the two sides were working on proved to be true as the final amount of the deal was what was being floated in reports.

What proved to be totally unfounded were the trade rumors and potential offer sheets that were coming Stamkos’ way if the Lightning and GM Steve Yzerman kept taking their time getting a deal done. Yzerman had this to say about the deal in the team’s press release.

“Steven is extremely important to this franchise and is part of the foundation of our hockey team,” Yzerman said.  “We are very pleased to have him signed and look forward to seeing him in a Lightning uniform for years to come.”

Yzerman should be excited about keeping Stamkos in Tampa. Stamkos has scored 96 goals over the last two seasons and proved to be MVP-like in his play the first half of this season helping keep the Lightning afloat as the team adjusted to new coach Guy Boucher’s system. Stamkos’ ability to score seemingly at will on the power play from the face off circles helped further establish his star power and credibility after tying for the Rocket Richard Trophy two seasons ago scoring 51 goals. Scoring 45 goals this past year and breaking the 90 point barrier for the second year in a row have proven what an important player he is for the Lightning and why he’s their go-to guy up the middle now.

While Stamkos is now one of the premiere stars in the NHL, he managed to cut the Lightning a bit of a break in signing his new deal. Other NHL superstars Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby took larger and/or longer deals than Stamkos did when their entry level deals expired.

Ovechkin signed a 13-year, $124 million deal with Washington while Crosby signed a five-year $43 million deal. You can argue players worth all you’d like, but Tampa getting Stamkos locked up for less than either of those players is a major win for the team. After all, it’s not as if Stamkos is going poor here either.

According to CapGeek, Stamkos’ deal leaves Tampa Bay under the salary cap by more than $7 million and they’ve got one more RFA left to sign in Teddy Purcell. Looks like Yzerman is doing just fine with his cap management skills. Stamkos joins Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier as the highest paid players on the team and his deal is still dwarfed by the one Lecavalier signed back in 2009 that goes for 11 years and $85 million.

It’s just further proof that getting Stamkos locked up to the deal he got today is huge for the team and a sign of the times under a new regime in Tampa Bay.

The West’s next round is now set (and wide-open)

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Saturday was a great day for fans of brevity and revenge.

Three of a possible three series ended on this day, with the Rangers dispatching the Canadiens, the Blues eliminating the “better” Wild, and the Oilers knocking off the Sharks in six.

The Rangers await either the Bruins or Senators and the Penguins face the winner of the Leafs – Capitals series out East, but we now know how the West shakes out.

St. Louis Blues vs. Nashville Predators

Both teams provided some of the upsets of this young postseason. Each features a red-hot goalie in Jake Allen and Pekka Rinne. Interesting.

Anaheim Ducks vs. Edmonton Oilers

There will be a lot of orange. We may also see a ton of goals with Ryan Getzlaf on fire, Oscar Klefbom headlining the list of unhealthy players and Connor McDavid possibly able to really take off against a Ducks defense that is beat up in its own right.

It’s already been a strange season out West, with the Kings missing the playoffs and first-round exits for the Sharks and Blackhawks. Get ready – and giddy – for things to get even weirder as the postseason goes along.

Oilers win first series since 2006 after Sharks fall crossbar short of overtime

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After making the playoffs for the first time since 2006, the Edmonton Oilers weren’t just “happy to be there.” They confirmed as much by eliminating the San Jose Sharks with a 3-1 victory in Game 6, winning the series 4-2.

Yes, those young Oilers just eliminated the team that represented the West in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final. Wow.

Ultimately, winning the breakaway battle in the second period indeed made the difference. Leon Draisaitl and Anton Slepyshev scored on their chances in the middle frame while Patrick Marleau could not; Slepyshev’s 2-0 goal ultimately became the series-clincher.

Now, that’s not to say that Marleau was a drag on San Jose. If this is it for one of the faces of the franchise, he had a great 2016-17, including generating the Sharks’ final goal of the postseason.

The Shark Tank was alive after Marleau reduced the Oilers’ lead to 2-1, and more than a few blood pressures rose – both in Edmonton and San Jose – after the Sharks got this close to tying things up.

Wow.

With this result, the West is set. The St. Louis Blues will take on the Nashville Predators while the Oilers face the Anaheim Ducks.

As much as people try to put the training wheels on Connor McDavid & Co., the West is wide-open enough that it’s not so outrageous to imagine a big run for Edmonton.

Beating the Sharks is a pretty nice way of adding an exclamation point to that statement win. And hey … they beat the Sharks last time around, too.

Canadiens sound a lot like Wild after playoff exit (without ‘better team’ talk)

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Much like the Minnesota Wild earlier on Saturday, the Montreal Canadiens are stunned to approach the golf courses so rapidly.

Many of the responses after the New York Rangers eliminated them in Game 6 sound a lot like what the Wild uttered, though there’s no potential bulletin board material like Bruce Boudreau’s line about the better team failing to win four games.

Max Pacioretty viewed this early exit as a “missed opportunity” and never really believed that an elimination was coming.

Claude Julien provided parallel comments to Bruce Boudreau, believing that Montreal generated chances but lacked “finish.”

Brendan Gallagher? He worries that this might have been the Canadiens’ best chance, something the Wild must also worry about with a difficult offseason ahead.

Now, it’s likely that most teams speak about being shocked and expecting better after being booted from the postseason.

Still, these reactions do shine a light on the staggering nature of some of these exits. Will the likes of the Blackhawks, Canadiens and Wild struggle to be in such prime positions in the future? With the Sharks needing a comeback against the Oilers, could the trend continue on Saturday?

The bottom line is that, instead of preparing for a Game 7 after winning the Atlantic Division, the Canadiens are packing up their stuff and worrying about re-signing Carey Price. That’s a pretty stunning turnaround, regardless of the soundbytes available.

Video: Draisaitl, Slepyshev score on breakaways, Talbot spurns Marleau

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Some playoff games or even series come down to something as stupidly simple as one team taking advantage of their opportunities while the other fails to capitalize on chances.

If Game 6 of the Oilers – Sharks series follows the story of the second period, then San Jose may join Saturday’s stream of eliminated teams.

It’s not fair to boil it down to three breakaways, but some might feel that way.

Leon Draisaitl looked like a gritty, strong veteran during his first career playoff goal, bulling his way to the net for 1-0 breakaway tally. About a minute later, Anton Slepyshev was even more alone against Martin Jones, and he scored his first postseason goal to make it 2-0.

That stings for the Sharks, and it doesn’t help that they had a similar chance not long after. This time around, Patrick Marleau couldn’t beat Cam Talbot, so it remained 2-0 for Edmonton.

That’s the same score as the game enters the third period, even with some dangerous late chances for the Sharks.

If the Sharks don’t score at least two goals in the third, their push to return to the Stanley Cup Final could end in the first round.