Stamkos NSH (2)

No, you didn’t dream it. You aren’t reading it wrong: Steven Stamkos is officially a Nashville Predator.

As free agency opened on Monday morning, the two-time Stanley Cup champion, former Tampa Bay Lightning captain and generational talent put weeks of speculation and rumors to bed, inking a watershed four-year, $32 million contract with his new team in the Music City.

“This is obviously a very special moment for my family and I, and we couldn't be more excited to be joining the Nashville Predators organization,” Stamkos said from his Florida home via Zoom. “It truly has been a whirlwind the last few days, [and I had] lots of emotions going into last night, and had a pretty good feeling that we were going to have to make the big decision when we woke up this morning…. And Nashville was the team that we decided to sign with. So, it certainly went pretty fast. But like I said, we're so excited to be part of this amazing franchise. Obviously, we saw what happened today with some of the other signings, so it’s a great day to be a Nashville Predators fan, and like I said, we’re very, very excited to be part of that.”

Stamkos Talks Signing with Nashville

Though Stamkos’ ultimate decision was not made lightly, it was informed - in part - through many conversations with former teammates Ryan McDonagh and Luke Schenn. Of course, watching the Predators go on an 18-game tear down the stretch didn’t hurt Nashville’s stock in the veteran’s eyes either. 

“I think that was probably the start of them collectively as a group coming together, especially with a new coach and a new vision from management, and that was pretty intriguing to me,” Stamkos said. “To see the run that they went on, to see how close they were in the playoffs… Then to add the players that they did today, it just magnifies the talent level that’s on this team, it magnifies the leadership that was brought in. And I saw Trotzy talking about bringing in serial winners and guys who have done that, and there's quite a few of those guys on the team now. So, I'm really excited about that.”

Though former teammates Stamkos and McDonagh will swap affiliations at the start of the 2024-25 campaign, the former Bolts captain will arrive in Smashville beside a former teammate he hasn’t played alongside in nine years.

“There were some rumors flying around that Nashville had signed Jonathan Marchessault, too, and at first I wasn't sure if it was true,” Stamkos said. “He called me and was like, ‘Are you signing in Nashville?’ I thought he was calling because maybe he thought I’d signed here and he wanted to sign here, and then it wasn’t going to work for him, or vice versa. And he said, 'No Stammer, I'm coming too.’ So, that was a pretty fun surprise today.”

As monumental and life-changing as the deal was for Stamkos, it could prove to be a game-changer for the Predators too.

After all, when Stamkos steps onto the ice for his Predators debut, he’ll become the first No. 1 overall pick to play for Nashville in the team’s 26-year history. 

He’ll bring a litany of career accomplishments along with him, too, including a pair of Stanley Cups, another pair of Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophies and the Mark Messier Leadership Award.

He’ll bring plenty of scoring, too. 

Stamkos’ 555 goals are the most in Tampa Bay’s history and the second-most among all NHL players since his rookie season in 2008-09, as well as the 30th-most in League history. His 1,137 points and 582 assists stand as the most- and second-most in franchise history, respectively.

In 2023-24, Stamkos recorded his seventh career 40-goal season and was third on the Lightning in points with 81 (40g-41a) in 79 games. He ranked among the NHL’s leaders in power-play goals with 19 (tied for third), goals with 40 (tied for 15th) and shots with 262 (26th), helping lead Tampa Bay to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the seventh consecutive campaign.

Put simply, today could end up being one for the Smashville history books.

“Today was a very good day for our team and the organization, but also for the players,” Predators General Manager Barry Trotz said. “I mean, when you start getting texts from your players saying, ‘I’m excited,’ I think that really says a lot… It's a statement for the rest of the NHL that these players will come to Nashville. These players see what we're doing with our franchise. We have lots to offer and we're very determined to win.”

Stamkos, a ‘serial winner’ through and through, understands the mission and can’t wait to get started in Smashville.

“I hope to bring what I've always brought and that's leadership and production on the ice,” Stamkos said. “I know how hard it is to win and get it done, and I hope I can bring that to the locker room and just try to share from my past experiences… It's new, it's exciting. There are those butterflies and nerves, but I think once we get down there and get settled in, we know the quality of the people within the organization, we know how great of a city Nashville is and we know how passionate the Smashville fan base is at Bridgestone Arena. So, we're really excited.”

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