from Tom Gulitti of NHL.com,
The emotions were still too raw for Steven Stamkos to ponder what comes next for him.
The Tampa Bay Lightning captain had worked so hard and endured so much to get back in time to play in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final on Thursday, and there was a lot for him to digest after the season-ending 2-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. A question about whether he had considered that this might have been his final game as a member of the Lightning produced a curt reply.
"No," Stamkos said.
Stamkos' future with the Lightning appears murky at best; his contract is set to expire and unrestricted free agency awaits him on July 1. But it was understandable that the future was the furthest thing from his mind Thursday.
Playing in his first game in eight weeks after recovering from surgery to clear a blood clot near his right collarbone, Stamkos had hoped to spark the Lightning past the Penguins and to their second trip in as many years to the Stanley Cup Final.
"All the adversity that we overcame as a group, I couldn't be more proud of the guys with how far we came with the injuries that we had," a teary-eyed Stamkos said. "I feel horrible for the guys that battled every night. I was able to play one game, but those guys had a [heck] of a postseason. It was just an honor to be on the ice with those guys tonight. Too bad the result wasn't better."