The biggest potential free agent for the summer of 2016 appears to be making some, albeit slow, progress on a new contract.
Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning have largely been quiet on the contract front, choosing not to talk much about the situation until there’s something substantial to say. But Stamkos’s agent Don Meehan talked a bit on TSN 1050 in Toronto saying that the two parties are “engaged” and that Meehan and Stamkos are practicing “due diligence to the nth degree.”
The Tampa Bay Times’ Joe Smith provides an extended quote from the interview.
All that we’re really doing at this point in time is taking a little bit more time. But we’re engaged with Steve Yzerman. And as I say, we have a great relationship with him. And when you get to a point in a career where you have professional decisions to make like this – as you know, the Collective Bargaining Agreement doesn’t really afford you this kind of opportunity that often. And the Collective Bargaining Agreement is a give and take process, and it’s something that you – for this kind of a decision and this kind of player, I really think that you have to practice due diligence to the nth degree.
While it may not be a great situation for the team if the contract talks extend into 2016, as it will undoubtedly fuel massive trade speculation, it makes sense that they’re taking their time. Stamkos has the potential for a massive payday, potentially even a benchmark deal.
With Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane setting new benchmarks this summer with contracts carrying a $10.5 million AAV, it’s possible that Stamkos’s deal could exceed those figures. Chicago is managing two high water marks and Tampa will only have a single player they’d be managing at that high of a cap figure.
One thing that has to be weighing on GM Steve Yzerman’s mind in these discussions is the future of the team. They have many restricted free agents up for new contracts in the summer of 2016, including Alex Killorn, J.T. Brown, Vladislav Namestnikov, Nikita Kucherov and Cedric Paquette. The next summer, they’ll have Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Jonathan Drouin and Andrej Sustr up for RFA negotiations and Victor Hedman will be a UFA.
The Stamkos deal could determine what this team looks like for the next handful of years.