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Former Lightning general manager lists Bruins among favorites to sign Steven Stamkos 06.27.16 at 3:28 pm ET
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Steven Stamkos could be made the highest-paid player in the NHL on Friday. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Steven Stamkos could be made the highest-paid player in the NHL on Friday. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Former Lightning general manager Brian Lawton said on Toronto’s TSN 1050 radio that he considers the Bruins a favorite to sign top unrestricted free agent Steven Stamkos. To watch/hear Lawton’s interview with Naylor & Landsberg, click here.

Stamkos, 26, could very well be made the highest-paid player in the NHL when he inks his next contract, presumably when free agency opens on Friday.

“Right now the top three for me — I still think there’s a very, very big chance that he could end up back in Tampa,” Lawton noted, “but I would say Toronto, Tampa, Boston would be the top three.”

Asked about pursuing Stamkos following the NHL draft on Sunday, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney intimated that he would reach out Stamkos’ agent during the NHL’s current interview period for free agents.

“We will take the temperature of whoever will help our hockey club,” Sweeney said. “If it lines up, that’s what we’d like to do. We obviously have flexibility for any particular player that we would like to go after. There’s a lot of coveted ones in the market, so we’ll make all the calls. Absolutely all the calls.”

Potentially working in the Bruins’ favor could be his relationship with coach Claude Julien, whom the B’s retained after missing the playoffs for a second straight year. Stamkos and Julien think very highly of one another, with Julien notably visiting Stamkos in the hospital when the player suffered a broken tibia in a game against the Bruins in 2013.

“I had him at the Olympic Camp and I got to know Steve the person,” Julien said after visiting Stamkos. “When you look at what he is in the league and what he’€™s accomplished, to have that happen to him I thought it was just important to go by and see how he was doing. It was as simple as that.

“He’€™s one of those players that people from all the different cities come up to watch and play and he’€™s one of the reasons we fill buildings and you hate to see that, from anybody’€™s point of view, to see a guy like that get injured that way,” Julien added.

Lawton said that the Maple Leafs would present an attractive destination for the Markham, Ontario native and that Stamkos would be able to handle the attention that would come with playing in such a market.

Tampa’s reported offer for its captain carried a cap hit of $8.5 million, a far cry from the $10.5 million annually that Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews make in Chicago.

“I don’t think that it’s just about money at all for Steven Stamkos,” Lawton said. “I think it’s important — I think that offering him, if it were in fact true, $8.5 million [per year] is — like I said, it’s not about money — but I think in some ways that’s probably a little insulting to Steven.”

The No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 draft, Stamkos has had three seasons of at least 90 points and has scored 40 goals three times in his NHL career. Since 2009-10 — his second season in the league — Stamkos’ 516 points rank fourth in the NHL behind Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and Kane.

Read More: Claude Julien, Don Sweeney, Steven Stamkos,
Bruins will likely reach out to Steven Stamkos 06.25.16 at 2:00 pm ET
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Teams are now allowed to talk to free agents such as Steve Stamkos. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Teams are now allowed to talk to free agents such as Steve Stamkos. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

BUFFALO — Canucks general manager Jim Benning was fined by the league for talking about Steven Stamkos too early. Even with the legal interview period now open, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney still chose his words carefully when asked about this summer’s top free agent. In fact, he never even said Stamkos’ name when asked about him.

But he did indicate he’d reach out to the three-time 40-goal-scorer.

“We will take the temperature of whoever will help our hockey club,” Sweeney said with a grin. “If it lines up, that’s what we’d like to do. We obviously have flexibility for any particular player that we would like to go after. There’s a lot of coveted ones in the market, so we’ll make all the calls. Absolutely all the calls.”

Among the other top free agents who could be of interest to the Bruins is former Islanders right wing Kyle Okposo.

Sweeney wouldn’t rule out potentially touching base with former Bruins left wing Milan Lucic, but that ship has sailed. Lucic is set to hit the open market on July 1, with the Oilers among the favorites to sign the 28-year-old.

Read More: Steven Stamkos,
Don Sweeney lists center as an area Bruins might look to upgrade 05.25.16 at 12:06 pm ET
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This is just a picture of Steven Stamkos. Relax. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

This is just a picture of Steven Stamkos. Relax. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Here’s an interesting tidbit from Wednesday’s conference call with Bruins general manager Don Sweeney and coach Claude Julien: When asked what he wanted to fix, Sweeney listed center as a position he’d like to address via free agency or trade.

At least at the NHL level, center is the one position where the Bruins seem completely set. The team has Patrice Bergeron signed through 2021-22, David Krejci signed through 2020-21, Ryan Spooner signed for another year and Noel Acciari still on his entry level contract.

“We’ve got areas that we want to address in the depth of our organization, more likely in the forward position, either on the right wing or the center and again on the back end,” Sweeney said. “But we’re exploring a bunch of different things trade-wise. It’s difficult in this league, but I think that we’re in a position with two first-round picks to either be selecting really good players or to be in the marketplace.”

In terms of organizational depth, the B’s probably could use bodies in the middle, as Providence first-liner Alexander Khokhlachev is expected to leave North America to play in the KHL. Or, if Bruins fans want, they can take Sweeney’s answer as a “saying there’s a chance” quote to attach to pipe dreams of Steven Stamkos coming to Boston. Whichever.

Some other quick takeaways from the conference call:

– Sweeney said the Bruins still hope to sign Loui Eriksson.

– New assistant coaches Bruce Cassidy and Jay Pandolfo will have specific roles. Cassidy will be on the bench, running the defense. Pandolfo, who will officially be a coach for the first time after spending the last two seasons in player development, will be the team’s “eye in the sky,” meaning he’ll work from the press level.

– The Bruins have had discussions with restricted free agent Torey Krug and intend to sign him. That shouldn’t come as breaking news, but then again the Dougie Hamilton fiasco told us that good RFA defensemen and this team are no sure thing.

– On the impact of Kevan Miller’s new contract, Sweeney answered a question about possibly trading Adam McQuaid or Dennis Seidenberg by saying that he will explore anything and everything. A non-committal answer, yes, but he certainly doesn’t sound married to the idea of keeping the defensemen he has under contract.

– Providence assistant Kevin Dean will be among the candidates Sweeney will interview for the AHL head coaching gig.

– Sweeney has not told any of the Bruins’ free agents — restricted or unrestricted — that they won’t be back yet. The GM said he might have those discussions this week.

Read More: Don Sweeney, Loui Eriksson, Steven Stamkos,
Steven Stamkos, Lightning would ‘love’ to keep Bruins out of playoffs 04.11.15 at 11:00 am ET
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Steven Stamkos and the Lightning would "love" to keep the Bruins out of the playoffs. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Steven Stamkos and the Lightning would “love” to keep the Bruins out of the playoffs. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

TAMPA, Fla. — The Eastern Conference is changing. Since the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011, then-competitive teams have fallen off and risen again.

One of them is the Tampa Bay Lightning. Now, after earning their second consecutive playoff berth following a two-year drought, the Lightning can make it so the last Eastern Conference team to win the Cup will not participate in the postseason.

“I think any team in the league would love to knock a team like this out because of how dangerous they can be come playoff time,” Steven Stamkos said after the Lightning’s morning skate. “I think you look at LA and you look at Boston. Those are the teams that, no matter where they finish, if they can get into the playoffs, anything can happen because of the personnel they have, the experience they have. With LA being out, I think everyone in the West can sleep a little easier and obviously if Boston doesn’€™t make it, teams are a little happier here.”

Thanks to Friday night’s Penguins loss, the Bruins will still technically be alive when they hit the ice Saturday night at Amalie Arena.

When told of Stamkos’ words, Brad Marchand wasn’t surprised.

“We know that there’€™s no team that wants to do us a favor,” Marchand said. “We know that they’€™re going to bring their best game tonight. They played well at home their last game against us.

“We’€™re a good playoff team. We’€™re kind of built for that. Any team would be happy to knock us out. We know that they’€™re going to get their best game. That means that means that we’€™re going to have to play even harder and make sure we lay our bodies on the line and sacrifice for the team.”

Neither wild card spot in the Eastern Conference is clinched entering Saturday’s games. The Senators can clinch a playoff berth with a win Saturday afternoon in their regular season finale in Ottawa. The Penguins can tie up a spot with a win over the Sabres Saturday night. If the Senators lose in regulation or the Penguins fail to get a point, the Bruins can claim a spot with a win over the Lightning.

Yet the Lightning have more than one reason to try to win Saturday. In addition to knocking off the Bruins and making sure that they would never have to run into Tuukka Rask this spring, a win could potentially earn them the top seed in the Atlantic Division.

Through 81 games apiece, Tampa Bay has 106 points to Montreal’s 108. If Montreal loses to Toronto in regulation and Tampa beats Boston, the Lightning would take the top seed in the Atlantic by virtue of the regulation and overtime wins tiebreaker.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Brad Marchand, Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
Claude Julien says Team Canada has strong goaltending with Roberto Luongo, Carey Price 02.07.14 at 4:38 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — Claude Julien doesn’t like to talk too much about other teams’ players, so in a session with the media Friday that centered largely around the Olympics, the Team Canada Associate Coach was rather tight-lipped when asked to assess Tuukka Rask‘s chances with Team Finland.

“You’re asking me a question that has nothing to do with Team Canada, so I don’t comment on other teams,” Julien said with a smirk. “I’m happy that Finland has chosen Tuukka. He’s had a good year.”

Finland is considered to be stacked at the goaltender position, as it features Rask, Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen. Team Canada is considered to be loaded, though its perceived weakness — if it has one — is in net, where it has Roberto Luongo, Carey Price and Mike Smith. Price and Luongo both have a 2.36 goals-against average as of Friday, good for 14th and 16th in the NHL, respectively, while Smith is 37th in the league with a 2.85 clip.

“We’re fine. We’re fine,” Julien said. “I mean, we’ve got a goaltender in Luongo that won a gold medal. You’ve got a goaltender in Price that, to me, has probably been one of the steadiest goaltenders this year, has done a great job for Montreal, and then Smith has had a good year.

“Where people may be questioning that, I’m not. Right now, it’s just a matter of going out and showing that we have the right goaltending threesome to again compete for that gold.”

This marks the second time this week that Luongo has been defended by a member of the Bruins, as Milan Lucic went out of his way to speak to the character of the embattled Canucks netminder on Monday.

“I think too many people point the finger too much on Luongo,” Lucic said. “I think he’s a great goaltender, and I mean, he was still able to get [the Canucks] one win away from the ultimate goal. I think it shows the type of person that he is going through what he went through with how he was treated over there by everyone, and he still managed to keep his game at a high level, and he’s back on the Olympic team. He’s still one of the best goaltenders in the league, so as far as that goes, it shows a lot about his character and I wish him all the best in Sochi.”

On the subject of Steven Stamkos, who undoubtedly has a big fan in Julien (the Bruins coach visited Stamkos in the hospital after the young superstar broke his tibia in Boston in November), Julien said he felt bad that the Lightning center wouldn’t be headed to Sochi, but feels Martin St. Louis is a more than serviceable replacement.

“It is disappointing, because he’s one of the elite players,” Julien said. “I think everybody knows he was a shoo-in right from the get-go, but at the same time we keep talking about our depth and how Canada has enough players to make two teams. Well, we went and got another player that, in my mind, deserved to be on our team right from the start.

“When I say that, [I mean] we have to limit ourselves to a certain number, but there’s no doubt that he’s good enough to play — we’re talking about Marty St. Louis here — and there’s others on that list that could easily step into our lineup. You live with the situation, and I think if anything, they’re very smart at making the decision that’s for the well-being of Steven Stamkos. It’s unfortunate for us, but in the long run for the athlete and for the people that want to watch the guy play and be part of the NHL, it was the right decision, I guess.”

Read More: Carey Price, Claude Julien, Roberto Luongo, Steven Stamkos
Claude Julien’s take on why Steven Stamkos is more universally beloved than other superstars 11.25.13 at 1:19 pm ET
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Claude Julien singing Steven Stamkos‘ praises a couple weeks after visiting him in the hospital certainly isn’t the first case of the Lightning superstar being a welcomed guest in Boston.

Stamkos, who has twice been injured on Garden ice, has long been well-received around these parts, and he’s one of the few star players in the game who seems to be universally beloved.

Even prior to the Max Pacioretty incident, Zdeno Chara was booed every time he touched the puck in another building. Opposing stars get booed in other towns regularly, so what is it about Stamkos [for what it’s worth, he is one of the nicest people in professional sports] that makes him adored everywhere?

Julien had an interesting answer.

“What’€™s kind of unfortunate about the boos and that [is] a lot of it is based on what happens on the ice,” Julien said. “And we know Steve is not a dirty player. But yet, you get Zdeno, who is a physical player, and yet both of those people are just as equally good people; they’€™re quality people, but the perception of one versus the other is different. So you see the same thing with all those players.

“People are always going to cheer and respect the players that are not physical; they just go out and score goals and play the game. But if you’€™re physical at all, and you’€™re throwing your body around and you’€™re gritty and everything else, then you’€™re not going to get that same treatment. That’€™s my explanation for that. Steve is one of those hard-working guys that works hard and will get in the dirty areas but he’€™s not known as a dirty player — and he’€™s not.”

There’s obviously a lot of grey area not addressed there, as non-physical stars are booed plenty, but that’s a pretty interesting take from Julien regarding why Chara gets the treatment he does in other buildings.

Read More: Claude Julien, Steven Stamkos, Zdeno Chara,
Claude Julien visited Steven Stamkos in hospital at 1:10 pm ET
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Claude Julien

Claude Julien

Steven Stamkos had a rough time the last time he was in Boston, as he broke his tibia in the second period of a Lightning loss on Nov. 11 and had to stay in town to get surgery.

The NHL’s third-leading goal-scorer (still) was off crutches Monday as he met the Tampa media, and he revealed that B’s coach Claude Julien paid him a visit while he was in the hospital. He also received a text message from Zdeno Chara wishing him well on behalf of the Bruins.

“I had him at the Olympic Camp and I got to know Steve the person,” Julien said after Monday’s morning skate. “When you look at what he is in the league and what he’€™s accomplished, to have that happen to him I thought it was just important to go by and see how he was doing. It was as simple as that.

“Again, it’€™s a guy –€“ I said that after the game –€“ he’€™s one of those players that people from all the different cities come up to watch and play and he’€™s one of the reasons we fill buildings and you hate to see that, from anybody’€™s point of view, to see a guy like that get injured that way. So I stopped by and he certainly feels like he wants that opportunity to represent his country and he’€™s going to do everything he can and I just went there and kind of showed my support.”

For more on the Bruins, visit weei.com/bruins.

Read More: Claude Julien, Steven Stamkos, Zdeno Chara,
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