Lightning fans everywhere, Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman feels your pain.

He understands you want to know why center Steven Stamkos is unsigned. He gets that Stamkos' status as a restricted free agent open to offer sheets from other teams causes angst.

He knows you want information, yet … "We're not saying a whole lot about it," Yzerman said. "We're going to continue to talk quietly and work toward getting a deal done. I understand everybody's concern, but all I will say is I'm optimistic."

Fewer public statements — Stamkos' agent Mark Guy did not respond Saturday to a text message — helps both sides avoid saying the wrong thing. But as is said, nature abhors a vacuum, and when it comes to the Stamkos negotiations, that vacuum is filled with speculation, including:

• If Stamkos, 21, with a league-best 96 goals the past two seasons, really wanted to play in Tampa, he would have signed.

• The players association is pushing the center to get as much money as he can to set a new bar for players coming out of their entry-level contracts.

• Yzerman is worried the collective bargaining agreement that will be negotiated after next season will have a lower salary cap that will make large contracts even more cumbersome.