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Stamkos' preference is to stay with Lightning: report

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Steven Stamkos wants to sign a long-term contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning and denied there is any rift between him and coach Jon Cooper, the Tampa Bay Times reported Saturday.

"Like I've always said, I envision myself winning a championship here and want to do that," Stamkos told the newspaper. "Obviously we got close last year, and I'm the captain of this team and I want to be that leader."

Stamkos is in the final season of a five-year, $37.5 million contract and can become an unrestricted free agent July 1.

He said he had hoped to have signed a new contract this summer, a year before he became a free agent, similar to what the Chicago Blackhawks' Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews did in July 2014.

"That was obviously the hope; it hasn't gotten done," Stamkos said. "But there has been a lot of situations in the past where guys have signed later in the season and this isn't the first time. Even [Los Angeles Kings center Anze] Kopitar is going through it this year. It's not the first time someone in my position has been unsigned at this point in the season. Obviously we'll see what happens."

Stamkos leads the Lightning with 12 goals and 23 points in 33 games this season. The first pick of the 2008 NHL Draft, he has 288 goals and 521 points in 525 games, all with the Lightning. He won the Rocket Richard Trophy in 2010 and 2012, has four 40-goal seasons and has scored at least 20 in his first seven seasons. In 2011-12 he became the 20th player in League history to score 60 goals in a season.

He has been Lightning captain since March 6, 2014.

Stamkos also reiterated that there is no strain in his relationship with Cooper.

"That's false too," Stamkos said. "That's the thing. There's been so many different articles written about [Cooper] and I. How do they know what's going on in the room? A lot of it is speculation. A lot of it is a story that needs something to make it seem legit; there needs to be a reason [Stamkos hasn't signed]. Why no one has had any concrete stuff is because there hasn't been anything to talk about.

"I think obviously the people who know me and are close to the situation know what's true and what's not true."

Stamkos said as the Feb. 29 NHL Trade Deadline approaches and he remains without a contract, there will be even more speculation that the Lightning could opt to trade him rather than risk long him in free agency. Stamkos has a no-movement clause in his contract and did not say if he's been asked to waive it, or would do so if he was asked in the future.

"When we cross that bridge, we'll go over it then," he said. "There's still a lot of time before then. A lot of things can happen. It's probably not something I can give an answer to right now. Still a couple months away. There's a lot of things that can happen before then."

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