Steven Stamkos leaves the Lightning for big money!

Steven Stamkos leaves the Lightning for big money!

Steven Stamkos has made his choice, and he will be taking a big pay day outside of Tampa.

Jonathan Larivee

The Tampa Bay Lightning have lost their captain to free agency.

National Hockey League insider Pierre LeBrun is now reporting that Stamkos is closing in on an extremely lucrative deal with the Nashville Predators, one that will see him earn considerably more than most had projected.

According to LeBrun, Stamkos and the Predators 'should end up' at a deal that will pay the now former captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning an average annual value of $8 million per season. That represents a sizeable cap hit for Stamkos at this stage of his career, but there were reportedly as many as 6 teams trying to sign him as recently as Monday morning.

This will only represent a very modest decline in salary for Stamkos who previously carried an average annual value and cap hit of $8.5 million on the 8 year deal he had signed with the Lightning. Nashville is also located in a tax-free state, so Stamkos will continue to reap the same benefits he had in Tampa in that regard.

In spite of getting up there in terms of age at 34 years old, Stamkos continues to be a very effective NHL player. The star forward is coming off of a 79 game season that saw him record 40 goals and 41 assists for a total of 81 points.