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Why Steven Stamkos Believes ‘Something Special’ Can Happen With Predators

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Photo of Steven Stamkos by John Russell/Nashville Predators

Steven Stamkos didn’t have much time to dwell on his disappointment.

The seven-time NHL All-Star wanted to stay with the Tampa Bay Lightning, which drafted him No. 1 overall in 2008 and helped him develop into one of the league’s top centermen. But by late Sunday night, Stamkos knew his choices on the first day of free agency wouldn’t include his longtime team.

“When you don’t hear anything or nothing changes, you have to be able to adapt and make a decision,” he said. “That’s the toughest part – trying to hang on to something that maybe isn’t trying to hang on to you.”

Tampa Bay’s loss turned out to be Nashville’s gain.

Stamkos agreed to a four-year, $32 million contract with the Predators on Monday, headlining what could be a franchise-altering free agent class alongside forward Jonathan Marchessault and defenseman Brady Skjei.

Nashville had to fend off a variety of suitors – including Anaheim, Carolina, Detroit and New Jersey, according to a report from TSN’s Bob McKenzie – to land Stamkos. In the end, the two-time Stanley Cup winner viewed the Predators as his best option.

“I can be part of something special here,” he said. “Maybe it’s another great chapter. That’s the part that intrigues me and makes it so exciting.”

Stamkos has tallied 555 goals, 582 assists and a plus-46 rating across 1,082 career games, all with the Lightning. The 34-year-old is fresh off a 40-goal, 41-assist season and hasn’t shown signs of slowing down.

That gave him the luxury to essentially choose his next organization.

“One, being a competitive team,” Stamkos said of his selection criteria. “Two, going to an organization that’s committed to winning. Three, obviously probably the most important part: is it a fit for you and your family? … and then it’s got to be the right fit for you as a player. You try to check those boxes as you go along.”

Stamkos indicated the Predators were “aggressive” in their pursuit of him, which helped soften the blow of being unable to come to terms on a contract extension in Tampa. He also kept in close contact with former Lightning teammate and current Predators defenseman Luke Schenn, whose wife has already offered suggestions on areas to live and schools Stamkos and his wife Sandra could send their three young children.

“We’re really excited as a family to make that move,” Stamkos said. “We know it’s new, it’s exciting, there’s those butterflies and nerves that you have. But I think once we get there and get settled in, we know the quality of people within the organization, we know how great of a city Nashville is and we know the passion of the Smashville fanbase at Bridgestone Arena.”

Predators general manager Barry Trotz didn’t hide his optimism while speaking to media after perhaps his busiest day on the job. He sees a path for Nashville to win its first-ever Stanley Cup.

“I envision that someday we’re going to have a parade down our Broadway,” Trotz said. “Once you’ve done it, it’s addicting. You start looking at the number of guys on our team who’ve done it – they pull you along.”

Stamkos shares Trotz’s vision. Four Nashville players have won at least one Stanley Cup since 2019. Goalie Juuse Saros is signed for the long haul, Norris Trophy runner-up Roman Josi is still in his prime and Filip Forsberg just set a single-season franchise record for goals with 46 in 2023-24.

Those are the makings of a championship-caliber team, Stamkos said.

“There’s always a mix of a really good goaltender, an elite defenseman and then some elite forwards,” he said. “Even before (Monday) with the signings, Nashville checked those boxes.”

Follow Russell Vannozzi on X/Twitter @RussellV_MSP.

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