As expected, the Steven Stamkos trade rumors are continuing to escalate as time advances with no contract in place. With that, the ensuing panic of Lightning fans is closely following. It’s still early and I stand firm in believing that a deal will be completed sooner rather than later but is it officially time to panic? Can we make sense out of the whole situation?
First, we have to consider the financial ramifications of a new Stamkos deal. It’s no secret that the Lightning are approaching a crucial crossroads when it comes to their cap situation and very tough decisions will have to occur between now and July 1, 2016. Our own Dustin Nelson touched on this topic and covered the bases of what Tampa is facing in the very near future. The following poses an extremely daunting task for Lightning GM Steve Yzerman.
In the next two years they’ve got Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Victor Hedman, Alex Killorn, J.T. Brown, Jonathan Drouin, Vladislav Namestnikov, Nikita Kucherov, Cedric Paquette, Ben Bishop, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Andrej Sustr and Luke Witkowski hitting the end of contracts. A lot of those players — particularly Johnson, Palat, Hedman, Killorn, Namestnikov, Vasilevskiy and Kucherov — will be due raises.
Stamkos’ salary is expected to fall in the range of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, so somewhere in the ballpark of $10.5 million annually. But, it isn’t far-fetched to assume that there is an organization out there willing to give him north of that total. I recently looked at exactly how ‘elite’ Stamkos should be considered and his resume speaks for itself. He deserves to get paid and he will do exactly that. The question is, will it be in Tampa Bay?
Shopping Steven Stamkos Makes Sense for Yzerman
The grim truth to this matter is that Stamkos could very well leave Tampa next season. So, it’s definitely in the best interest of Steve Yzerman to find out what teams are interested in swinging a deal for Stamkos in case that’s the path eventually forced upon the Lightning.
According to a recent report from Elliotte Friedman, Yzerman did indeed shop Stamkos prior to the NHL Entry Draft. Or, there was at least rumblings of teams calling the Lightning. Either way, this can be looked at as a way for the Lightning to find out what suitors are out there, especially at that point in the summer as Stamkos’ no-movement clause had not kicked in yet.
Nothing seemed to stem from those conversations and at this point the Lightning would need full buy-in from Stamkos on any movement per his clause. However, the goal of those conversations is likely accomplished as Yzerman and company most likely have an idea of who’s interested. Remember, Stamkos could very well be a rental for a team if they would acquire him and not find a way to extend him.
Would Yzerman Let Stamkos Walk Over a Position Dispute?
We all know that you can’t let the inmates run the asylum. And, in professional sports it’s important that management and coaching staffs maintain control over their respective franchises and while they’ll obviously cater to their biggest stars, they can’t let them dictate the direction of the team.
That being said, if Stamkos is truly concerned about playing center and that’s a hinderance with his new deal, as Friedman reported, would they really let him walk to ensure that Valtteri Filppula remains in the mix at center? I find that extremely hard to believe.
The Lightning liked what they saw from Stamkos on the wing during last season’s playoffs. So, it’s no surprise that the temptation is there to continue that format. However, there’s no denying his impact at center either. In this situation, if Stamkos prefers to play center and a decision has to be made between him and Filppula sticking around, well, I think it’s obvious which way you go. Of course, moving Filppula becomes necessary at that point but I don’t foresee that being very hard to do.
This entire situation is as transparent as a brick wall. Neither side has openly discussed where they stand with talks and what kind of progress has been made. So, for the time being, we can only sit back and hope to understand each phase of this process while waiting for a deal to be announced. Yzerman and Stamkos both know what kind of distraction this will cause throughout the season, so I imagine both sides would like a resolution in the very near future.