NHL free agency: Steven Stamkos 'thankful' for time with Lightning as he reportedly joins Predators

Steven Stamkos is signing a four-year, $32 million contract to join the Nashville Predators, according to The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun.

The 34-year-old Stamkos had been with the Tampa Bay Lightning since the franchise selected him with the No. 1 overall pick at the 2008 NHL Draft.

A lack of contract extension talks between Stamkos and Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois during the regular season was a sign that a return to Tampa wasn't guaranteed. After last-ditch discussions over the past weeks failed to get anywhere, Stamkos' agent said the Lightning legend was "going to July 1" to test the free agent market.

On Sunday, the Lightning acquired the negotiating rights to Jake Guentzel from the Carolina Hurricanes and signed the forward to a nine-year, $63 million contract. Guentzel, who was expected to be a highly-coveted unrestricted free agent, is four years younger than Stamkos and has scored at least 30 goals in each of the last three seasons.

Stamkos 'excited for next chapter' with Predators

Before the deal was made official, Stamkos, who had served as Lightning captain since 2014, took to X to say goodbye to Tampa. In 16 seasons with the Lightning, he scored 555 goals and 1,137 points, won two Rocket Richard Trophies as the league's top goal scorer, and led the franchise to back-to-back Stanley Cup titles in 2020 and 2021.

It was a busy first hour of NHL free agency for Predators GM Barry Trotz. Along with Stamkos, he added forward Jonathan Marchessault (five-years, $27.5 million) and defenseman Brady Skjei (seven-years, $49 million).

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