"Puzzling & Strange": Stamkos Speaks Out On Shocking Departure From Lightning

It wasn't supposed to be this way. You'd have had to look far and wide a few months back to find anyone who thought that franchise icon Steven Stamkos re-signing with the Tampa Bay Lightning wasn't a slam dunk. 

Until it wasn't. And that day came today.

Stamkos spoke to Sportsnet after it all went down, and called the divorce from his old team "puzzling and strange." He's having a hard time answering the question, 'What the heck just happened??'

To be completely honest I've found myself asking the same question and the more people I talk to everyone seems to share that same sentiment, which is 'puzzling and strange'. At the end of the day, there was no question I was willing to put all that stuff aside to remain a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

"All that stuff" includes the fact that he was willing to talk extension last summer, but no negotiations were forthcoming. And all season. But again, crickets.

The Bolts tried to offer him a long-term deal (8 years) with a $3M AAV. But that was really a slap in the face for the future Hall of Famer, coming off another 40-goal season, his seventh such accomplishment with the team. 

"My family and I absolutely loved playing for that city and playing for the players that are there," Stamkos said. "It just seemed like maybe not everyone thought that way. I'm a big boy, I can handle that."

"We wanted to end and retire with the Tampa Bay Lightning. It certainly didn’t work out, but at the end of the day, in order to look yourself in the mirror, you have to just be honest with yourself, know your self-worth, know what loyalty and respect means to you, and then move on.”

The class act that he is, Stammer was trying to take the high road, despite the shocking end to his days in Tampa. Though he couldn't help getting in a "loyalty and respect" dig in that last statement. 

It's now onward and upward for the Bolts' all-time leader in goals, points and games played. And the Nashville Predators are the beneficiaries

In his 16-year career, Stamkos, a two-time Stanley Cup champ, played 16 seasons in Tampa, scoring 555 goals (3rd most among active players) with 582 assists in 1,082 games.

Photo: © Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports