Lightning announce Stamkos won't be traded before Feb. 29 trade deadline

Scott Audette / National Hockey League / Getty

If Steven Stamkos is leaving the Tampa Bay Lightning, it will be via unrestricted free agency.

General manager Steve Yzerman announced Monday that the club will not trade captain Steven Stamkos before the Feb. 29 trade deadline. The following statement was released:

As February 29th approaches, I am stating today that Steven Stamkos will not be traded before the NHL's trade deadline. I have said repeatedly that it is our hope to reach an agreement with Steven on a new contract at some point, and with 27 games remaining in the season, our entire organization, Steven included, wants to focus on making the playoffs. I will keep the negotiating process strictly between the involved parties and have no further comment on the state of those negotiations.

The Lightning sit fourth in the Atlantic Division with 64 points and a record of 30-21-4. The club currently holds the second wild-card playoff spot, with the Pittsburgh Penguins only a point behind and possessing a game in hand.

Stamkos has spent his entire eight-year career with Tampa Bay, and has scored 20-plus goals in each season with the club. He has 22 this season, along with 20 assists, his 42 points in 55 games is second on the club in scoring.

Related: Lightning potentially face an uncertain future without Stamkos, Drouin

With a no-trade clause, a salary-cap hit of $7.5 million, and a salary of $5.5 million, Stamkos' future has been the focus of intense speculation. Only 26, it's rare for a player of his talent to hit the open market, which he's set to do July 1. He was open about his future during the All-Star break, saying, "I want to win with Tampa," and that he didn't want to be traded.

It was reported in late January that Tampa Bay made Stamkos a contract offer with an average annual value of $8.5 million per season, the offer thought to be a negotiation point as contract talks began. The Markham, Ontario native refused to confirm or deny the report, saying "everyone will have some answers" after the trade deadline.

The answer, though, has come two weeks earlier than anticipated, as Tampa Bay is focused on the playoffs. The Lightning lost the Stanley Cup Final to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games last season.

Lightning announce Stamkos won't be traded before Feb. 29 trade deadline
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