The frequent flyer miles accumulated by Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman the past month might match the number of minutes racked up on his cell phone.
Yzerman took part in general manager and competition committee meetings the past two weeks, flying back and forth to Vancouver and Boston while also spending time in Tampa and his home in Detroit. He also has focused in on the task of re-signing some of the Lightning's key free agents.
At the top of the list is leading goal scorer Steven Stamkos, who is set to become a restricted free agent on July 1, opening the possibility another team could swoop in with a contract offer sheet. If that were to happen, the Lightning could either match the deal or receive draft pick compensation from Stamkos' new team in the form of several first-round picks.
Yzerman's goal is to ensure Stamkos – whose 96 goals the past two seasons are the most in the league – never hits the market and remains in a Lightning uniform for years to come.
"It is our intention to resign him, but he is restricted and we have the ability to match any potential offer sheet that might be put forward and we are in position to do that,'' Yzerman said. "So, we are quite confident that Steven will be playing for the Lightning, and that's our goal and we haven't explored anything else and we don't intend to look at it any other way.''
With the free agent market set to open July 1, Yzerman and assistant general manager Julien BriseBois are under the gun to try to reach deals with potential unrestricted free agents such as defenseman Eric Brewer, left wing Sean Bergenheim and goaltender Dwayne Roloson, all key playoff contributors in Tampa Bay's run to the Eastern Conference final.
Discussions are being held with representatives for each of those players.
"I've been in contact with all their agents, in some cases we have exchanged numbers and, in a couple of other cases with our UFAs, we've said we are going to see where we are with a couple of players and then we'll get back and let them know where we stand," Yzerman said. "And that obviously has to take place in the next couple of weeks here."
"With Sean, I've talked with (agent) Todd Diamond, I've made them an offer. With Eric Brewer, I've met with Newport Sports and we've had some discussions and I'm encouraged with how discussions have gone. (With) Dwayne Roloson's agent, we've talked and will continue here over the next week or two to see if we can get something done.''
Bergenheim, who made $700,000 last year, might be in line for a significant raise after scoring nine goals during the postseason, five fewer than during the regular season, before missing the final two games of the Eastern Conference final with an undisclosed injury. While an offer has been made to Bergenheim, a deal is not imminent, according to Diamond.
"We have had some discussions,'' Diamond said in an email. "It will not be an easy task to get done.''
While Stamkos would appear to be the first domino that has to fall for Yzerman and BriseBois to know how much money would be left in the budget, Yzerman said Stamkos' situation does not necessarily impact the others.
"Ideally we would like to get (Stamkos) done because it's a big piece of our puzzle, but we are confident that we will reach an agreement there,'' Yzerman said. "The other players are unrestricted on July 1, so regardless of Steven's status we are going to make decisions or come to agreements or move on with certain players regardless of where we are at with Steven.''
The Lightning hired Rob Kitamura to be a scout focusing on Ontario. Kitamura, 39, spent the past seven years as director of central scouting and player development for the Ontario Hockey League.
Kitamura replaces Chris Snell, who previously was responsible for the Ontario region, Yzerman said.