Matthew Carle

Stamkos extension ‘No. 1 priority’ this offseason, says Yzerman

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Less than 48 hours after losing the Stanley Cup Final, Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman was already back at work.

During Wednesday’s end-of-year media availability, Yzerman told reporters he’d identified his top offseason priority — signing captain Steve Stamkos to an extension, which can be done by July 1 at the earliest.

The news doesn’t come as a huge surprise, given the Lightning don’t have many free agents to deal with. But it is the official start of what promises to be an intriguing negotiation.

Stamkos is heading into the last of a five-year, $37.5 million deal with a $7.5M average annual cap hit. Given he’s one of the NHL’s elite snipers and only turned 25 in February, it’s assumed he’s in line for a raise, with some suggesting he’ll be in conversation to become NHL’s next $10M cap hit, joining Blackhawks stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane (their extensions kick in next season.)

But is Yzerman ready to commit that much money to one player?

If this postseason showed anything, it’s that Tampa has a slew of talented youngsters on the verge of becoming stars. Chief among them was Tyler Johnson, the leading playoff scorer — and while both he and Ondrej Palat are locked in through 2017 at $3.3M per, they’ll almost certainly be getting raises on their next deals.

And they’re not alone.

Nikita Kucherov, a bargain at $711,666 annually, is a RFA after next year. So too are Alex Killorn ($2,5M), Cedric Paquette ($633,333) and J.T. Brown ($950,000). Once Victor Hedman’s $4-million-per-season deal is up, he’ll almost certainly top Matthew Carle ($5.5M annually) as the team’s highest-paid defenseman.

Oh yeah, almost forgot — when Hedman’s deal is up in two year’s time, so too is Ben Bishop’s.

Any potential cap crunch could, of course, be mitigated by how badly Stamkos wants to stay in Tampa. It’s clear the team has the foundation to contend for years to come, meaning his decision could come down to the age-old question:

What’s more important, winning or money?

Do consider what Stamkos said today.

“This was one of, if not the best teams I’ve played on,” he said. “Not just skill wise, but how we got along.

“This was the most fun I’ve ever had playing the game.”

Eakins: Hall was ‘an amazing force’ against Lightning

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The Edmonton Oilers needed a win and they needed their best player to show them the way.

Taylor Hall had two points, including a penalty shot goal in the second period, to give the Oilers their first lead of the night against the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning. When the third period ended, the Oilers had secured a 3-2 victory, their first win of the season after some tumultuous times and the worst start to a season in franchise history last week.

What set up the penalty shot was Hall’s ability to find open ice, and his speed to exploit it. On a breakaway, Hall forced Matthew Carle to take a hooking penalty, resulting in the opportunity.

Feeling the moment, Hall tried to incite the crowd of fans, who haven’t had much to cheer about so far.

“I don’t really know what happened there,” said Hall.

“I haven’t been too good on breakaways or penalty shots or shootouts in my career. I’ve been all right. I just wanted to do something that kind of took my mind off the shot. I would’ve looked pretty silly if it didn’t go in but luckily it did.”

Hall, with a sweet move to the backhand, beat Ben Bishop for his fourth goal of the season.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins would score the winner with 3:25 remaining in regulation, less than three minutes after Tampa Bay tied the game at 2-2.

It’s amazing to see (Hall) grow and mature as a player. He was an amazing force tonight,” said head coach Dallas Eakins, as per the club’s Twitter account.

Video: Hall gives Oilers the lead on penalty shot goal

Taylor Hall has been trying to provide the spark for the Edmonton Oilers all night. He could ignite the club’s first victory of the 2014-15 season.

Hall gave the Oilers a 2-1 lead in the second period of Monday’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, beating goalie Ben Bishop with a slick little deke to the backhand on a penalty shot attempt.

Hall forced the call using his speed through the neutral zone, causing Matthew Carle to get his stick in on the hands of Hall as he broke in on the Tampa Bay goal. Given the one-on-one opportunity, Hall made no mistake. The goal came with 5:03 remaining in the second period.

Now, can the Oilers hang on to win this, to collect their first victory of the season?