NASHVILLE — Steve Stamkos knew the questions about his contract situation were coming.
So rather than dance around them, he attacked ’em straight on.
“You’re human — it’s in your head, for sure,” Stamkos said during Friday’s All-Star Media Day. “You try not to let it affect your play on the ice. You come to the rink and I’ve said, it’s kind of like your safe zone. And the guys understand. There are guys that have been through this before, and I think as a team we’ve had a few distractions in the past couple of years that we haven’t really let affect us.
“Again, it’s easier said than done. Everybody’s human.”
As has been documented throughout this season, Stamkos is still without a contract and, with every passing day, gets that much closer to unrestricted free agency. At 25, the former 60-goal scorer would be the biggest and most ballyhooed UFA since Zach Parise and Ryan Suter went to market in 2012 — decisions that proved financially beneficial for both, as they inked matching 13-year, $98 million deals with the Wild.
Many observers figured there would be clarity in the Stamkos contract situation by now, but all we’ve seen are reports and rumors. The latest was from Sportsnet, which claimed Tampa Bay made an eight-year, $68 million deal offer an $8.5M average annual cap hit.
Stamkos wouldn’t comment on that report but, on Friday, did discuss negotiations.
“There’s really no timeline or date,” he explained. “It’s gone on this long, you never know what to expect — and if you were to ask me that question at the beginning of the season, I’d have the same answer.
“You’re pretty involved, you know what’s going on. I wouldn’t say [the updates] are something that is daily, but there’s definitely communication — and when there is communication, you’re involved in it.
The conversation then turned to Anze Kopitar‘s new deal in Los Angeles.
Kopitar and Stamkos have, inevitably, been linked throughout the season as elite-level players in contract years. But while Stamkos’ situation remains unresolved, Kopitar’s is signed, sealed and delivered — in the form of a monster eight-year, $80 million extension that made him one of just three $10M cap hits in the NHL, along with Chicago’s dynamic duo of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.
Stamkos was asked if he paid any extra attention to the Kopitar negotiations.
“You’re aware of it, but I wouldn’t say I was monitoring it,” he said. “You’re aware of what goes on around the league. That one gets a little more play for me, because you get asked about it in comparison.
“I wouldn’t say I was sitting on my phone, updating it, waiting for him to sign an extension. But when anyone signs in the league, you’re aware of it.”
He’s got a point. Given how long Stamkos’ situation dragged out, when he signs, everyone will be very aware.