St. Louis signs six-year, $31.5M deal

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Lightning took another step to
keep the core of their Stanley Cup championship team together
Wednesday, signing Martin St. Louis to a six-year contract worth
more than $31 million.
The 30-year-old right wing had 38 goals and 56 assists for 94
points during the 2003-04 season to win the Hart Trophy as MVP, Art
Ross Trophy (scoring leader) and Lester B. Pearson Award (MVP as
chosen by the players) while leading the Lightning to their first
league title.
"I've said it many times in the past and I continue to maintain
that Martin St. Louis is the heart and soul of our hockey team,'
general manager Jay Feaster said.
"Dating all the way back to the summer of 2004, there was never
a moment when we were not firmly committed as an organization to
getting Marty signed long term. The fact that he was willing to
take less and give up the chance to explore unrestricted free
agency demonstrates his commitment to our team, his teammates, our
franchise and our incredible fans."
Last week, the Lightning signed forward Vincent Lecavalier to a
four-year, $27.5 million contract.
Lecavalier's deal enabled the club to avoid the prospect of
losing one of its two front-line stars to unrestricted free agency
next year. But it also limited the amount of money the team could
offer St. Louis under the NHL's new $39 million salary cap.
Feaster was determined to hold on to St. Louis, though,
especially after losing star goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, who
signed a four-year, $27 million contract with the Chicago
Blackhawks earlier this month.
St. Louis conceded there were times, especially during the past
week, that he thought he might have played his last game for Tampa
He could have opted to sign a one-year contract and become an
unrestricted free agent after next season, but said from the start
he preferred a long-term deal as long as it was fair.
"Once we lost Habby, I think it was very important to keep the
rest of the core together. But it's one thing to keep the core
together. You also want the core to be happy and not sign just any
offer," St. Louis said by telephone.
"It's been a tough week, a tough summer to be honest. I've
never been through anything like this. ... It feels good to get it
The 5-foot-9 native of Laval, Quebec, signed with Tampa Bay as a
free agent before the 2000-01 season and has 105 goals and 239
points in 295 games since joining the Lightning.

With St. Louis and Lecavalier locked up, the questions now turn to Brad Richards, a restricted free agent next season after earning $3.4 million this season. He become an unrestricted free agent after the 2006-07 season.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.