Newspaper article The Canadian Press

After LeBron Went Home, Stamkos Understands but Ignores Leafs Speculation

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

After LeBron Went Home, Stamkos Understands but Ignores Leafs Speculation

Article excerpt

Stamkos ignores Leafs speculation for now

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TORONTO - LeBron James going home to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers led to speculation about whether a star NHL player might do the same in the near future.

Naturally, Steven Stamkos was at the centre of that speculation. The Tampa Bay Lightning captain and Markham, Ont., native could be an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2016, and the allure of playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs could be there.

"We'll see what happens. It's a couple years away," Stamkos said Wednesday. "Right now I'm focused on what I have to do to win in Tampa, and I think we've really established ourselves as a team that can compete in upcoming years.

"For me, that's the important thing is getting a chance to win. It looks like we're going to have that chance for a couple years."

At the age of 24, Stamkos is one of the most marketable stars in the NHL. He has topped 50 goals in a season twice already and only missed out on representing Canada at the Sochi Olympics because of a broken leg.

Stamkos made a run with the Lightning to the Eastern Conference final in 2011, and Tampa Bay was swept by the Montreal Canadiens in this year's playoffs. The Stanley Cup is his priority now, something he can legitimately think about with general manager Steve Yzerman piecing together one of the best young teams in the league.

"We have a good thing going down in Tampa," Stamkos said at a Coca-Cola ball-hockey promotional event. "We have a great owner, we got a great GM in Steve Yzerman and we got a good young team. I want to win, and hopefully I can do it in Tampa."

Stamkos said with the additions of centre Brian Boyle and defenceman Anton Stralman and the re-signing of winger Ryan Callahan, the Lightning are probably better on paper than they were at the end of last season.

"We didn't have the finish we wanted to last year, but with the new faces coming in, the expectations are probably set a little higher," he said.

Stamkos said chatter about joining the Leafs in two years was "absolutely not" a distraction for him in Tampa, where he'll begin his first full season as captain this fall. …

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