TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Steven Stamkos wants to hoist the Stanley Cup again with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The 34-year-old captain, who can become a free agent this summer, reiterated Wednesday that he’d like to remain with the only franchise he’s played for in a stellar 16-season career.

And, general manager Julien BriseBois said the club definitely wants him back, adding he’s already spoken with Stamkos and the player’s agent to begin discussions in the aftermath of Tampa Bay’s loss to the Florida Panthers in the first round of the NHL playoffs.

“From the trade deadline on, he elevated his level of play, which was incredible to see,” BriseBois said.

“For someone who you can say has already earned his Hall of Fame plaque and has accomplished so much for so long — for him to play arguably the best two months of hockey of his career at a time when our team needed it most was incredible.”

Stamkos is the Lightning’s career leader in points (1,137) and goals (555), a seven-time All-Star and a two-time winner of the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy as the league’s leading goal-scorer.

He expressed frustration at not receiving a contract extension last summer, then went out and delivered the seventh 40-goal season of his career.

The No. 1 overall pick from the 2008 draft was especially effective down the stretch with 28 points (16 goals, 12 assists) after March 8 to help the Lightning overcome a slow start and key injuries to make the playoffs.

“It was harder for us this year to get into the playoffs, but they found a way. … From the midpoint of the year, which was Jan. 8 through April 5, when we clinched a playoff spot, we actually had the third-best record in the NHL,” BriseBois said.

“That, plus the players that are under contract, give me every reason to believe we’re going to be highly competitive again next year,” the GM added. “We want (Stamkos) to be part of that group.”

Stamkos, who helped the Lightning win consecutive Stanley Cup titles in 2020 and 2021, finished with 40 goals and 41 assists in 79 games this season.

He scored five goals during Tampa Bay’s first-round playoff loss to the Panthers, becoming the third player in franchise history to reach 100 postseason points.

Despite losing in the opening round of the playoffs for the second straight year, Stamkos is confident the Lightning are not far away from contending for another Stanley Cup title.

“I think the window’s certainly open when you have some of the premier players at every position,” Stamkos said. “You look at all the teams that have won the Cup in the last five years, and we talk about really good defensemen, an elite goalie and elite forwards.’’

Coach Jon Cooper agrees the Lightning, who made three consecutive appearances in the Stanley Cup Final from 2020-22, remain a formidable team.

“We’re still a good team, but everybody else is trying to find a way to improve as well, and they have a say in what you’re going. But I think our standard and how we’ve gone about our business in the league is still exceptional,” Cooper said.

“What we’ve done is create our own monster. We created a reputation of expectation that for a decade has been of excellence,” the coach added. “It’s still excellence, it’s just we haven’t won the championship in the last couple of years. … So people think: ‘well, what happened?’ But we’re still knocking on the door.”

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AP NHL playoffs: https://apnews.com/hub/stanley-cup and https://www.apnews.com/hub/NHL