The Nashville Predators have grabbed one of the biggest fish in the free agency market when they signed former Tampa Bay Lightning star Steven Stamkos after the forward agreed to sign a four-year deal that would bring his talents to the different side. It is hard to imagine the 34-year-old in a different uniform given how he’s become the face of the Lightning, and yet here we are.

The Tampa Bay Lightning were eliminated in the first round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the hands of the Florida Panthers in five games. After that, it did seem that Tampa Bay was hoping to see a promising change in their squad, but the cap space limits prevented them from offering another deal to Stamkos that would have seen him stay with the team fro at least four more years.

This was quite expected after the Lightning went on to acquire the rights to forward star Jake Guentzel from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for a third-round pick in the 2025 NHL Draft. Tampa Bay went on to sign their new acquisition to a seven-year, $63 million deal, which meant that the budget would be tight to sign Stamkos further.

A New Dawn for Stamkos

As soon as the news broke out that Guentzel was signed by the Lightning, the Predators made an aggressive push to upgrade their roster by signing for Stamkos. The team also added the likes of Jonathan Marchessault, Brady Skjei, and Scott Wedgewood to make it clear that they are gunning for the Stanley Cup Final.

Stamkos inked a four-year deal worth $32 million with the Predators. He had a total of 81 points (40 goals, 41 assists) in 79 games last season and six points (five goals, one assist) in five playoff games.

“This was a unique experience for me for sure,” Stamkos said. “Something I hadn’t really done in my career. When you’re trying to navigate where you’re going to play, there’s certainly a lot of factors that go into that. One, being a competitive team. Two, going to an organization that’s committed to winning. Three, probably the most important part, is it a fit for you and your family? When you have young kids like I do, being in the right city has to make sense for them as well.”

A Legacy Left By Stamkos

At the age of 34, Stamkos was the face of the franchise – the captain, the team’s leading scorer, and two-time Stanley Cup champion. However, all of that faded away in a blink of an eye after the Lightning did not approach him to sign an extension last July 1st before the 2023-24 season began. It was a season where Stamkos finished with 84 points (34 goals, 50 assists) in 81 games and won the Mark Messier Leadership Award.

“After the season, I knew both sides were going to want to try to get something done and do something that was mutually beneficial for both sides,” Stamkos said. “It just felt like I was the one that was making a lot of the concessions. That certainly came into play.”

Fans were left disappointed by the decision made by the management, but it was quite the choice to either supplant their roster with a promising star or hold on to nostalgia. They’ve had a great run with Stamkos in that back-to-back Stanley Cup Final finish, which certainly defined his success in the game with the Lightning. Now it is time to move on.