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Cooper: Stamkos knows he belongs with Bolts

Mike Carlson / National Hockey League / Getty

Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper made his opinion on pending unrestricted free agent Steven Stamkos clear after his team's elimination from the postseason Monday.

"He belongs here," Cooper said, according to team reporter Chris Krenn. "We know it. He knows it."

Cooper added: "He's also, I suppose, in control of his own destiny. I don't know what's going to happen. He feels like a Bolt for life, but only he and (general manager Julien BriseBois) can answer that one."

Stamkos tallied 40 goals and 81 points in 79 games this season. He backed it up by netting five goals and six points in five postseason contests.

The 34-year-old said he wasn't thinking about the uncertainty around his future as the game winded down.

"No, no, that never crossed my mind," Stamkos said, per Bally Sports Sun. "I'm out there battling to try to help our team win, regardless. At the end of the game, we're trying to score, and there's some pride on the line for our group."

Stamkos has played his entire 1,082-game career with Tampa Bay. He's racked up 555 goals and 1,137 points to go with two Stanley Cups and two Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophies.

BriseBois said in October that he'd wait until the season ended before making any decisions about Stamkos' future. He added at the time that he hoped the forward would finish his career with Tampa Bay.

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