Center Steven Stamkos believes the Tampa Bay Lightning are as close as they've been in his tenure to winning the Stanley Cup.
"We're right on the edge," Stamkos told the Lightning website Thursday. "We've proven we can win in the playoffs, and we can overcome adversity and obstacles thrown our way."
Stamkos could have become an unrestricted free agent July 1 but instead signed an eight-year contract valued at $68 million, according to TSN, on June 29. On July 1, defenseman Victor Hedman signed an eight-year contract extension worth $63 million, and goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy signed a three-year, $10.5 million contract extension.
Having three key core pieces in place has Stamkos, who has played for Tampa Bay since he was the No. 1 pick in the 2008 NHL Draft, excited for the future.
"We realize the chance that we have here, and it's exciting," he said. "It's something that motivates you."
Stamkos was in Tampa for a checkup with his doctor. He had surgery April 4 to remove a blood clot from near his right collarbone and missed all but one game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, returning for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins. He had no points in the Lightning's 2-1 loss.
He said he took three weeks off to rest before starting his offseason training.
"The body feels good and the mind's refreshed," he said.
He's feeling even better after the Lightning's offseason moves. In addition to his contract, Stamkos said he was happy to know Hedman would be his teammate for the foreseeable future.
"Victor and I are extremely close friends," Stamkos told ESPN earlier in the week. "We came up in this organization as 18-year-old kids. To say that we're going to be together for the long run, and on one team, that's something special."
Stamkos also said forward Jonathan Drouin withdrawing his trade request was another step in the direction of potentially winning the Cup.
"When Jonathan took the trade request back, that was huge," Stamkos said. "We all saw what he did in the last five regular-season games and in the playoffs. Given the opportunity, the way he prepared himself for games, he was almost a new player.
"Sometimes you need to go through some tough, adverse times in your career to learn. He did that. He learned that at a young age (21) and he's going to be a stud in this League for a long time."
The Lightning won the Stanley Cup in 2004. Tampa Bay lost the 2015 Cup Final in six games to the Chicago Blackhawks, and the Penguins won the 2016 Cup after eliminating the Lightning.