Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, but Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman remains focused on signing Stamkos to a long-term contract before then rather than trading his rights, the Tampa Bay Times reported Monday.
Stamkos would have to grant Yzerman permission to trade his rights because he has a full no-move clause. Yzerman has had talks with Stamkos and his agents, but nothing has changed, and said he is hoping to have a "clear idea of where we are" prior to the weekend.
"We're doing all we can to sign him," Yzerman told reporter Joe Smith. "To be honest with you, it's out of my control. He's an unrestricted free agent on July 1. I can't force him to sign a contract with us if he doesn't want to. If he wants to go to July 1, he has that right."
The Lightning offered Stamkos a contract with an average annual value of $8.5 million in January, according to Sportsnet.
Video: FLA@TBL: Stamkos puts a rebound top-shelf for a PPG
Selected by Tampa Bay with the No. 1 pick of the 2008 NHL Draft, Stamkos led the Lightning with 36 goals this season but had surgery April 4 to remove a blood clot near his right collarbone. He returned to the lineup for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins on May 26 but had no points in 11:55 of ice time in a 2-1 loss. His 312 goals since the 2008-09 season are the second-most in the NHL behind Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals (362).
Yzerman faces others decisions to make this summer; forward Nikita Kucherov, among others, is scheduled to become a restricted free agent on July 1. In addition, forwards Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat, defenseman Victor Hedman, and goalies Ben Bishop and Andrei Vasilevskiy, are entering the final seasons of their respective contracts.
"What we look like if [Stamkos] re-signs with us, it affects what we can do with our team," Yzerman said. "For us, we'd like to know sooner than later.
"At some point on other players, I have to make a decision, whether it'd be restricted free agents, or potential trades or qualifying offers and things like that. I've got to make decisions and they can't be put off forever."