Buyer beware on Steven Stamkos?

Steven Stamkos' goals per game and points per game rates are his lowest since his rookie season. Is this a short-term blip or a long-term trend? Scott Audette/NHLI/Getty Images

With about half the season in the books, the Tampa Bay Lightning have been one of the NHL's more disappointing teams, on the outside looking in at the playoffs after reaching the Stanley Cup finals in the spring.

Anything can happen in the remaining 41-plus games, and with the Atlantic Division being so close right now (six of the eight teams are separated by six points), it wouldn't be a stretch for the Lightning to go on an impressive run and skyrocket to the top.

In order for Tampa to put together a string of wins like that, however, the Lightning need Steven Stamkos to get going offensively. The 25-year-old sniper is averaging 0.42 goals per game, the lowest he's averaged since his rookie season in 2008-09. His point totals aren't exactly increasing, either, as he's averaging 0.74 points per game; again, the lowest mark since his rookie season.

Is this a short-term blip, or is he starting to decline? That's an important question for Tampa GM Steve Yzerman -- and anyone else considering employing Stamkos on a long-term contract beginning next season.