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Lightning signs Stamkos to 5-year pact

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - All-Star center Steven Stamkos signed a five-year, $37.5 million contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday, two months after helping the team make a surprising run to the Eastern Conference finals.

Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman announced the deal, saying that even though the deal took several months to come together that there never was a doubt that Stamkos - a restricted free agent - would remain with the team.

"I never even thought of looking anywhere else," the 21-year-old Stamkos said, adding that contract negotiations were a learning experience.

"It was interesting. I think it went along a little longer than I would have expected, or maybe the team or a lot of people expected," he added. "But at the end of the day, it was something that I never really lost any sleep over."

Yzerman called Stamkos extremely competitive, and said he envisions him developing into an even better player.

"He's played three years in the league and his best years are ahead of him," Yzerman said. "He's a very committed player, very serious about what he does."

The Markham, Ontario, native played in all 164 games during the previous two seasons for the Lightning, leading the NHL with 96 goals. He has also recorded 186 points and 41 power-play goals while averaging more than 20 minutes of ice time per game during that span.

Stamkos, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 draft, had 45 goals - 17 on the power play - and 91 points last season.

"We considered various lengths of contract," Yzerman said. "We feel like five years is a long time, and a lot of things can change over the course of a five-year period. It just seemed like a comfortable number."