By JOHN WAWROW and STEPHEN WHYNO/AP Sports Writers
Lightning captain Steven Stamkos is staying put in Tampa Bay.
The 26-year-old Stamkos tweeted Wednesday that he was “excited to be back for 8 more years” and three people familiar with the decision confirmed the move. One of the people said the contract is worth $68 million, and Stamkos will average $8.5 million per season.
The people spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the Lightning had not announced the decision.
The agreement was reached two days before Stamkos had the opportunity to test free agency, where the two-time NHL scoring champion was expected to command lucrative offers from numerous bidders, including his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs, the Buffalo Sabres and Detroit Red Wings.
Instead, he chose to stay with the team that made him the No. 1 pick in the 2008 draft. Canada’s TSN.com first reported Stamkos’ decision.
(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)