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Why Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning kept deal at 5 years

Steven Stamkos(notes) said the framework of his new contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning was agreed upon weeks before the 5-year, $37.5-million deal was announced on Tuesday.

Which made the constant stream of rumors about his being traded or signing an offer sheet with another team "comical," in his words.

The pinnacle of that comedy? "I actually got a couple of texts from friends with a picture of my face Photoshopped on Phil Kessel's(notes) body when he got signed to Toronto," said Stamkos. "It had my face, name and number of the back of a Leafs jersey. People actually thought it was a real photo."

(Oh, that Brian Burke. Such a crafty recruiter.)

Stamkos said he kept an eye on the rumors on the web and on TV, along with receiving them from his friends. Were any offer sheets actually tendered to him that he didn't sign?

"No, not to my knowledge. For the most part, it as just trying to get a deal done with Tampa," he said.

Stamkos said the team's playoff run was partially responsible for the prolonged negotiation with the Lightning, pushing the talks between himself and GM Steve Yzerman later in the calendar.

Both said there was never any doubt he'd remain with the Lightning. That he'll remain with the Lightning for five years is the intriguing part.

This is, after all, a franchise player. Alex Ovechkin(notes) is one too, and has a 13-year deal with the Washington Capitals. So why did Stamkos and the Lightning opt for five?

Yzerman said they talked about contracts of "varying lengths" but felt the 5-year term was the right one. "We feel five years is a long time. It's an appropriate term and something we're comfortable with," he said.

The 5-year term eats up one year of Stamkos's unrestricted free agency, but he'll be very much in his prime when it's over. Plus, it gives the Lightning a chance to extend the deal before Stamkos hits the open market.

"That's usually the year where if teams want to lock up you up again, they have that one-year window to get that extension," said Stamkos.

Another factor in the 5-year term: That the NHL's Collective Bargaining Agreement is set to expire after next season.

"I think it impacts the structure of the contract a little bit," said Yzerman. "There's a lot of uncertainty."

Yzerman said that the CBA wasn't a huge factor in the 5-year term, but Stamkos seemed to indicate it was a significant one.

"With the CBA going to expire at the end of next year, we wanted to get something done. You never know what the outcome [of that] will be, and you don't want to be tied down in a long-term deal," he said.

"We have a strong [NHLPA] now. We all think that things are going to get done and there's not going to be a lockout. But you always have to err on the side of caution, and a 5-year deal was something both sides were comfortable with."

In the end, Stamkos said the 5-year term was what both he and the Lightning were looking for: Long enough where he's committed to the franchise, short enough where Stamkos is staring at a windfall of riches in 2016.

"We never talked about anything much longer than that," he said.

"It keeps you motivated. It keeps you wanting more."

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