Steven Stamkos' first pro contract is signed and sealed. Now he just has to deliver.
Stamkos, the No. 1 overall pick in last month's draft, inked his name on a three-year entry-level contract with the Lightning on Tuesday that guarantees the 18-year-old $2.625 million. Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, Stamkos' base salary for each of the three seasons is set at $875,000, which includes a 10 percent signing bonus. Performance bonuses could earn him as much as an additional $2.85 million per season, allowing Stamkos the opportunity to earn as much as $11.175 million through the life of the contract. The salary cap hit is $3.75 million each year.
But despite the guaranteed money, Stamkos knows it doesn't guarantee him anything once training camp begins Sept. 16.
"This is a pretty exciting day and to get that first contract under my belt, but the only guarantee is the signing bonus money that comes with it," he said. "By the time training camp comes around, everybody is on a clean slate. I know I have to work hard the rest of the summer to get ready to come to camp . . . and prove to everybody why I was taken first overall."
Lightning vice president of hockey operations Brian Lawton, who has held a handful of conversations with Stamkos but is watching live for the first time this week at the team's prospect development camp, said he believes Stamkos is ready to make the jump from juniors to the NHL, although he still has to show it to the coaching staff at training camp.
"From what I have seen, and it's still premature, he has the ability to play in the NHL," Lawton said. "But he still has to prove that at training camp, he has to show he has the mental capacity to get over that hump to make that jump. But as of right now, I don't see many scenarios in which he won't be with us to start the season.
"The thing that has been the most impressive about him is he is an extremely humble person. He's willing to pay his dues and do what it takes to prove himself. There are no examples of him expecting something to be handed to him or any sense of entitlement."
Tampa Bay plans on Stamkos centering the second line, likely with new acquisitions Ryan Malone and Radim Vrbata on his wings, two of the many new faces that should help ease Stamkos' transition to the NHL.
"I think it makes it a lot easier and comfortable for me to have those guys around and not have to be looked at as the go-to guy right away," Stamkos said. "Hopefully I can slide right in there and find my way."