Johnston: Contained in the Lightning-Stamkos cut up — a reminder that within the NHL, enterprise trumps brotherhood TERMAN WEBSITE

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On the intersection of cohesion and cold-hearted enterprise, the Tampa Bay Lightning discovered themselves separating one of many NHL’s closest, most profitable and longest-running duos this week.

Victor Hedman hadn’t totally processed the truth of Steven Stamkos’ being walked into free company whereas he was signing a four-year, $32 million extension with the Lightning on Tuesday.

You’ve by no means seen a man so downtrodden after securing a big-ticket contract that runs into his late 30s. Hedman couldn’t even convey himself to smile.

“Clearly, it’s tremendous unhappy to see your good friend go away and go play some other place,” he mentioned from his offseason house in Sweden.

That they had performed collectively since 2009 — showing in additional than 1,200 video games apiece for the Lightning and twice kicking off the workforce’s Stanley Cup procession after reaching the top of the game.

Stamkos and Hedman pushed one another via laborious practices and carried their aggressive nature over to the golf course at any time when downtime allowed. They grew up collectively, attended one another’s weddings, began households and by no means dreamed of a day when Stamkos can be signing with the Nashville Predators whereas Hedman was receiving a contract with an identical phrases from the Lightning.

“It’s going to be laborious to think about going into our locker room and going into Amalie Enviornment and never seeing him on the ice,” Hedman mentioned. “It’s going to be tremendous, tremendous bizarre.”

Fact be instructed, issues had been slightly bizarre between Stamkos and the Lightning’s entrance workplace for some time.

That helps clarify how we arrived at a breaking level.

Stamkos nonetheless doesn’t totally perceive why basic supervisor Julien BriseBois let all of final summer time move with out even broaching a dialogue a couple of potential extension — a frustration the Lightning captain voiced publicly on the opening day of coaching camp in September.

Wanting again after signing his personal four-year $32 million cope with the Predators on Monday, Stamkos recognized that as the start of the top.

Or, as he put it: “The beginning of the writing on the wall.”

Nonetheless, the edges engaged in a sequence of negotiations this offseason that stretched into final week. They explored a number of contract ranges and potentialities earlier than in the end specializing in a long-term deal that will preserve the AAV as little as doable and protect the membership’s capability to navigate the wage cap.

BriseBois is a decisive thinker who’s unafraid to make unpopular or unorthodox selections, lots of which helped construct these Cup-winning groups in 2020 and 2021.

Although understanding totally who Stamkos is and the way a lot he means to Tampa — “I’ll say he’s the most effective spokesperson perhaps within the league for a corporation,” BriseBois mentioned. “He’s extremely eloquent, genuine, trustworthy, considerate, insightful” — the GM approached the contract talks with a particular view of how the subsequent Stamkos deal needed to match into the Lightning’s general image and didn’t veer from it.

“Finally, there have been eventualities and totally different constructions and methods to place a contract collectively that had been, I felt, in the most effective pursuits of the group,” BriseBois mentioned. “There have been varied ones that would have labored out. Steven had a number of contracts that would have labored for him, however in the end there was no overlap, and that’s why we didn’t get a deal executed.”

The Lightning’s finest supply on an eight-year time period was someplace within the vary of a $3 million common annual worth — considerably much less in whole than Stamkos acquired on his four-year contract from Nashville.

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Now, it’s not fully honest to check apples to apples.

What he would have accepted to stay in Tampa and what he pursued on the open market had been two various things, Stamkos mentioned.

“While you’re in a single place for a very very long time, you’re at all times attempting to make it work and keep and there’s concessions from either side,” he mentioned. “In order that was a totally totally different scenario from being a free agent on the open market and groups actually going out of their method to present how essential you’d be should you had been capable of be introduced into their organizations.”

Stamkos was prepared to offer a hometown low cost. However because the July 1 opening of free company approached, he felt like he was being requested to offer again greater than he would obtain in return.

“That’s the hardest half, is attempting to hold on to one thing that perhaps isn’t attempting to hold on to you,” he lamented.

Distinction that with the best way the group handled Hedman’s scenario, locking him as much as a brand new deal a full 12 months out from unrestricted free company. The Lightning did the identical factor with the massive defenseman in 2016 after first letting Stamkos get inside two days of changing into a UFA, and the group even utilized a distinct method to their second NHL contracts earlier than that.

With former GM Steve Yzerman on the helm, Stamkos’s entry-level contract was allowed to run out in 2011 despite the fact that he already had a 50-goal season underneath his belt, and Hedman signed an extension with seven months remaining on his.

It’s extra about philosophy than something private: The Lightning are betting {that a} 6-foot-7 defenseman who skates just like the wind and has performed greater than 20 minutes per recreation for 15 consecutive seasons is tougher to interchange than an elite shooter coming off a 40-goal, age-33 marketing campaign who must proceed producing offense to be efficient.

BriseBois defined that Hedman’s scenario is the exception fairly than the rule, noting that almost all star-quality NHL gamers in recent times have needed to wait for his or her fourth contract as a substitute of signing an early extension — naming Patrice Bergeron, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Joe Pavelski and Claude Giroux as examples.

Plus Tampa Bay feels it already discovered its Stamkos alternative by signing Jake Guentzel to a seven-year, $63 million contract Monday. He’s 5 years youthful than the departed captain and a famous big-game scorer who BriseBois believes will match proper into the workforce’s tradition.

“He’s a Bolt who occurred to haven’t been taking part in for the Bolts up to now,” BriseBois mentioned. “At this time we sort of remedied that.”


Julien Brisebois moved rapidly to interchange Steven Stamkos’ offense when a signing turned untenable. (Ron Chenoy / USA At this time)

Although this wasn’t how Stamkos or the Lightning’s entrance workplace envisioned issues taking part in out, they remained extremely respectful whereas describing the circumstances that led to a cut up.

BriseBois lauded Stamkos as a future Corridor of Famer and wished his household happiness. Stamkos expressed gratitude for a way “top notch” the group and town had been to him.

“The reminiscences that I’ve had in Tampa will trump no matter in poor health will or emotions I’ve had all through this course of,” Stamkos mentioned. “These are momentary. These are emotional selections, and you understand as time passes these often go away.”

What’s going to stay unbroken is his tie to Hedman, even when solely considered one of them will get the prospect to spend his complete profession with the Lightning.

“Earlier than we’re teammates, we’re nice associates, and we’re at all times going to be,” Hedman mentioned. “Greatest-case situation, yeah, we might have cherished to complete our careers in Tampa and collectively. However this hockey is a enterprise on the finish of the day.”

(High picture of Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman: Christian Petersen / Getty Photographs)

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