Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos will not be traded prior to the NHL Trade Deadline at 3 p.m. ET on Feb. 29, general manager Steve Yzerman said in a statement Monday.
Stamkos, the Lightning captain, is in the final season of a five-year, $37.5 million contract, which carries a salary-cap charge of $7.5 million in 2015-16, according to war-on-ice.com. He could become an unrestricted free agent July 1.
"As February 29th approaches, I am stating today that Steven Stamkos will not be traded before the NHL's Trade Deadline," Yzerman said. "I have said repeatedly that it is our hope to reach an agreement with Steven on a new contract at some point, and with 27 games remaining in the season, our entire organization, Steven included, wants to focus on making the playoffs.
"I will keep the negotiating process strictly between the involved parties and have no further comment on the state of those negotiations."
Stamkos, who has a no-movement clause in his deal, has been eligible to sign a deal with Tampa Bay for as long as eight years since July 1, 2015. If he reaches the open market and signs with another team on or after July 1, 2016, the maximum deal length will be seven years for that team.
The Toronto Maple Leafs traded captain Dion Phaneuf to the Ottawa Senators in a nine-player deal on Tuesday, raising speculation at the time they were clearing space under the NHL salary cap to pursue Stamkos, who is from Markham, Ontario. The statement from Yzerman on Monday dampens that speculation considerably.
Chicago Blackhawks forwards Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews each signed an eight-year, $84 million contract in the offseason prior to becoming free agents. On Jan. 16, Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar signed an eight-year contract reportedly worth $80 million, avoiding pending free agency. Those contracts will likely be the comparables used by Stamkos' representatives in the negotiations.
Don Meehan, the agent for Stamkos, told Sportsnet 590 The Fan on Wednesday negotiations with the Lightning were productive and both sides were doing their due diligence as they approach a long-term deal.
"We have a long, long list of considerations for players like that [who] are going to commit to an eight-year term," Meehan said. "Then there are many personal issues, there are many professional issues, there are many economic issues.
"To do this right, to do justice to the whole process, everyone should take as much as time as necessary to review all these considerations so that when the decision is made you won't have any regrets by saying, 'Well, I never thought of that, I never covered that off, I never considered that.'
"… Nobody should make any excuses for doing that. I think you really owe it to yourself to do that in every respect."
Stamkos was a restricted free agent in July 2011 and took 18 days before signing his five-year contract.
He has 22 goals and 42 points in 55 games this season. Stamkos, the first pick in the 2008 NHL Draft, has 298 goals and 540 points in 547 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 goals in each of his first eight seasons. In 2011-12, he became the 20th player in League history to score 60 goals in a season.
Tampa Bay (30-21-4, 64 points), the defending Eastern Conference champions, holds the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the East.