Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman (77) hits the puck...

Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman (77) hits the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Los Angeles Kings Saturday, March 23, 2024, in Los Angeles. Two-time Stanley Cup champion defenseman Victor Hedman has signed a four-year, $32 million extension with the Tampa Bay Lightning, a deal that will keep him under contract with the team through the 2028-29 season. General manager Julien BriseBois announced the move Tuesday, July 2. Credit: AP/Jae C. Hong

TAMPA, Fla. — Before addressing his future with the Tampa Bay Lightning, star defenseman Victor Hedman wanted to take a moment to reminisce about the past.

Especially, his friendship of the past 15 seasons with Steven Stamkos, the longtime face of the franchise who left in free agency after failing to agree to a new contract with the club they helped win consecutive Stanley Cup titles in 2020 and 2021.

“It’s not something that anyone expected. The same goes for me,” Hedman said Tuesday after signing a four-year, $32 million extension that will keep him in a Tampa Bay uniform through the 2028-29 season.

Stamkos, the team’s career scoring leader, landed a deal with the Nashville Predators for the same contract length and monetary value.

“It’s going to be hard to imagine going into our locker room, and going into Amalie Arena, and not seeing him on the ice,” Hedman said. “It’s kind of super, super weird. But at the end of the day, hockey is a business and this is what it’s come to.”

Stamkos, 34, entered the NHL with the Lightning as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 draft.

Tampa Bay selected Hedman second overall a year later, and the teenagers evolved into cornerstones of a franchise that’s been one of the league’s most successful over the past decade-plus.

“I’m obviously super, super, super excited to announce my extension. I love the organization, I love the city, I love the fans, and I love wearing that (Lightning logo) on my chest,” Hedman said.

“Hopefully, when it’s all said and done, I'd like to retire as a Bolt," he added. “But first and foremost, obviously, I want to try and do whatever I can to be at my best and help the team win another Stanley Cup."

Stamkos played 16 seasons in Tampa Bay. He left after general manager Julien BriseBois cleared enough room under the salary cap to keep the longtime captain but declined to increase the Lightning’s previous offer.

With Stamkos set to test his value on the open market, the Lightning used a significant chunk of the cap space created by trading defenseman Mikhail Sergachev and forward Tanner Jeannot to sign free agent forward Jake Guentzel to a seven-year, $63 million contract on Monday.

“Stammer is sincere in all the statements saying that he wanted to stay in Tampa. That shouldn’t be questioned. He definitely wanted to stay in Tampa,” BriseBois said Monday.

“At the same time it was clear throughout our process that he also had financial expectations that he expected us to meet,” the GM added. “Ultimately, I felt and made the decision that if I agreed to the terms that he wanted in order to get a deal done, I would not be putting ourselves in the best position to chase championships going forward.”

Hedman has one season remaining on his contract and BriseBois made it one of his top priorities to lock the four-time All-Star into a long-term deal this summer.

The native of Ornskoldsvik, Sweden, is coming off a season in which he ranked fourth among NHL defenseman in assists (63), fifth in points (76), sixth in power-play points (31) and eighth for average time on ice (24:48).

One of just 11 defensemen in league history to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the playoffs, Hedman has scored 156 goals and compiled 728 points over 1,052 regular-season games.

In addition, he has appeared in 165 playoff games, accumulating 117 points with 23 goals and 94 assists.

Tampa Bay also announced a two-year, $1.6 million extension Tuesday with 23-year-old defenseman Emil Lilleberg.

Former Buffalo Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons signed a three-year, $2.55 million contract Monday. Last weekend, 24-year-old defenseman J.J. Moser, prospect Conor Geekie and two draft picks were acquired in one of the trades that created salary cap relief.

“We are a younger team, and we have a better pipeline and that means that in the long term, we’ve also improved our odds of having success,” BriseBois said. "So, over the last few weeks the end result is that we’ve improved our team and our odds of success both in the short term and in the long term.”


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