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Report: Stamkos' desire to play center could affect decision to re-sign with Lightning

Eric Hartline / USA TODAY Sports

Steven Stamkos isn't winging it when it comes to his impending unrestricted free agency.

The Tampa Bay Lightning superstar is entering the final year of his contract, yet as recently as Sept. 4, general manager Steve Yzerman indicated there was no update in regards to an extension.

And while Yzerman stated at the beginning of the summer that re-signing Stamkos was priority No. 1, the situation may not be as clear cut as one might assume.

Money-wise, Stamkos is expected to command a salary on par with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, both of whom will be making $10.5 million this season. That's a possible sticking point, but there are other factors at play, including Stamkos' positional preference, Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reports.

Stamkos prefers to play centre, which creates a top-six logjam with Valtteri Filppula and triplet Tyler Johnson. It sounds like the Lightning would prefer Stamkos to play on the wing to ease that issue. From what I've been told, the discussions were professional, but both organization and player remain searching for common ground.

On top of that, the Lightning boast a host of young talent, many of whom will be in line for raises in the next couple of years. Tampa Bay has the talent to challenge for the Stanley Cup in the near future, but whether Stamkos believes Yzerman can effectively keep the band together is believed to be another component in the player's line of thinking.

Friedman further reports there were rumblings of trade talks surrounding Stamkos prior to the NHL Draft in June, but it's believed talks didn't proceed very far down that road.

Some sources indicate teams called Yzerman to ask. Others say the Lightning wanted to check the market in case they eventually had to do something.

Coming off a Cup Final appearance while entering the prime years of his career, it would have seemed unlikely that Stamkos would play anywhere but Tampa even a couple months ago. But the longer he goes without an extension, the louder talk will get about his possible departure, potentially forcing Yzerman's hand in terms of a trade deadline deal.

The 25-year-old hit the 40-goal mark for the fourth time in his career this past season, and is averaging 46 (and 83 points) for every 82 games played since breaking into the NHL seven seasons ago.

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