Last night Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos became the sixth-youngest player in NHL history to score 100 goals.
Stamkos joined Wayne Gretzky, Jimmy Carson, Brian Bellows, Dale Hawerchuk and Ilya Kovalchuk as the only players to hit the milestone before they reached age 21.
After a blistering start to the season in which he scored 19 goals in 19 games, Stamkos has cooled a bit lately with just seven goals in his last 14 contests. Still, he’s on pace for 65 goals and 117 points, and trails just Sidney Crosby for the NHL lead in both goal-scoring and points.
Stamkos, now in his third year, clearly deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as fellow top draft picks Crosby and Alex Ovechkin in conversations about the NHL’s elite offensive players.
Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, he’s about to be paid like them because he happens to be a restricted free agent at the end of the season. 20-nine other teams might be happy to deal a few first-round picks to the Lightning in exchange for the right to sign Stamkos, so the Lightning had better be prepared to make a record-setting offer in the $9 million to $10 million a year range. Luckily for the Lightning they have nearly $22 million in salary cap space available next year.
But to think, they almost traded Stamkos to the New York Rangers before his rookie season was halfway through.
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