<
>

Steven Stamkos not letting trade rumors become a distraction

Sarah Goldstein/ESPN

TORONTO -- It is more than a little difficult to imagine Steven Stamkos in a jersey other than the Tampa Bay Lightning's.

But it’s also more than a little difficult to accept the fact that training camps open in about a week and we are not just talking about the lack of a new contract for the Lightning captain but about the possibility that he could be traded if the two sides can’t agree on an extension in this the final year of his current contract.

Stamkos, of course, is aware of the buzz that his uncertain contract status is creating.

"It’s total speculation because you never know when things can change," Stamkos told ESPN.com Tuesday.

"I think as you go through it, you realize it is a process. You realize the business side of it pretty quick. I’ve been able to learn that over the seven years that I’ve been in the league. When there is news I’m sure you guys will be the first ones to know."

If he is disappointed that the contract extension that many initially believed would be a formality is still unresolved, he does not show it.

"You know what? I really didn’t know what to expect coming in," Stamkos said.

"Obviously I went through a contract talk five years ago, but that’s a little different when you’re a restricted free agent and even that went past July 1 and you started getting the questions and the rumors and all that fun stuff. So I think having gone through that, it’s kind of helped me a little bit not to panic when things don’t happen right away. So I wouldn’t say you’re totally comfortable in that situation but you know what to expect. For me I think it’s easier now to just kind of put that stuff aside and realize that you know you’ve still got a year left on your contract.

"I’m the captain of the team. We just had a great year. You have to put that stuff aside. You have to come into camp, I thought I had a great summer of training, I feel fantastic considering we finished not too long ago," he added. "The focus is on not having a letdown season after having such a good one. That’s been the focus since I started training two and a half months ago."

The exact nature of contract talks isn’t known, but certainly the new contracts for Chicago Blackhawks stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane that kick in this season are an obvious benchmark. The two signed identical eight-year deals with an annual cap hit of $10.5 million.

Can the Lightning afford to be in the same neighborhood while also keeping core talent like Tyler Johnson, Victor Hedman, Ondrej Palat and Ben Bishop in the fold long-term?

"For me it’s just about not letting it be a distraction, which really it hasn’t been to me," Stamkos said.

Even though Stamkos was getting a steady diet of contract queries and questions about his future with the Lightning at the annual player media interviews being held in Toronto, he remains Zen about the process.

"You know what? It’s not something that bugs me," Stamkos, 25, said.

"I think I’m pretty comfortable in being in those situations. Obviously when it’s that time of the year, it comes with the territory. I think I’ve always been a guy that with those types of matters what’s said and what goes on is really between the team and me and Newport Sports [his agents]. It’s not that hard for me not to talk about it, I’ll put it that way."

While some players are reluctant to have contract talks go on during a season, Stamkos would not rule out anything in terms of setting a deadline or anything of that nature.

"Who knows what can happen tomorrow, the day after, a week, two, months, I can’t really answer that question," Stamkos said.

"I think there’s going to be ongoing discussions for sure, and we’ll see what happens."