The rumor mill is working overtime about the future of one, Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning. He of the impending free agency status who happened to have grown up in the Toronto area. The guy can’t even like a tweet without the NHL world reacting fast and furiously. When he un-likes the same tweet the conspiracy theorists begin their work.
With all due respect to The Clash and their 1981 hit, ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’, here is my take on the whole situation:
Stammer, you got to let us know. Will you stay or will you go?
You are about to start your prime. Are you in Tampa ‘til the end of time?
So, you have to let us know. Will you stay or will you go?
It’s always ‘nothing to report’. Toronto rumors we must thwart.
One day you’re good and you are here. But one day will you disappear?
So, c’mon just let us know. Will you stay or will you go?
Heard Through the Grapevine
There have been so many unsubstantiated reports, a multitude of columns and news pieces, and a cluster of social media posts related to Stamkos and the negotiations with the Lightning. Some people see signs that he is staying and some see signs that he is leaving.
None of this matters. The only thing that matters is what Stamkos, his agent and representation, and Lightning General Manager, Steve Yzerman are doing. I have written about this before and have stated that I believe that Stamkos will spend his entire career with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Certainly, that could be proven wrong in the next few months but I promise, life will go on. I base my opinion of Stamkos’ re-signing not on whether or not Stamkos is seen or photographed wearing a Toronto Blue Jays hat or if he likes a tweet then doesn’t but rather on history and facts.
Almost immediately after the Lightning lost in the Stanley Cup Final to the Chicago Blackhawks last June, Yzerman stated that re-signing and locking up Stamkos to a long term deal was his number one priority. For those who may not know, Yzerman is the anti-Kardashian when it comes to media availability. He holds a press conference about as often as most people go to the dentist. He also seems to cringe like most do during a teeth cleaning when answering questions from the media.
So, when he addresses the media, it should be taken to heart. When Yzerman speaks, smart fans listen. When he says that locking up Stammer is atop his to-do list, as far as I am concerned, it is a done deal. That is not to say that the two sides could fail to find common ground but it sure wouldn’t be from a lack of trying.
The Nth Degree
When Don Meehan, of Newport Sports Management who represents Stamkos, speaks about a client the words are generally measured, succinct and very close to the vest. It is what most sports agents do, at least the good ones. Meehan has a stellar reputation, successfully representing many NHL players for over 30 years. Last month, talking about the Stamkos deal, Meehan said that from their perspective, they were proceeding with “due diligence to the nth degree”.
Meehan confirmed being “engaged” with Yzerman and called his relationship with the Hall of Fame Executive, “great”. So far, so good. Actually sounds promising. Meehan also represents Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks who in 2013 was in the identical position that Stamkos finds himself today. Last year of a contract with the team that drafted him and rumors swirling as to whether or not Perry was going to re-up with the Ducks.
The fact of the matter is that Perry re-signed with Anaheim to an eight year contract extension worth $69 million dollars. He did so on March 18, 2013. For those keeping track, that was about two weeks before the NHL trade deadline. You see, these kind of big money, long-term NHL deals are not of the handshake variety. There are hundreds of T’s to cross and I’s to dot and Newport Sports is going to cross and dot every last one of them.
Most NHL experts believe that the deal for Stamkos is going to reach the Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews stratosphere. Perhaps an $80 million, eight year deal. You don’t hammer that out with Stammer over a dinner at Bern’s Steakhouse. It is a painstakingly long process.
For the Lightning, the recent announcement by Gary Bettman that the NHL salary cap could go up about $3 million dollars next season bodes well for the Lightning being able to re-sign Stamkos. The lack of a state income tax in Florida and the downward flux of the Canadian dollar also loom large in these negotiations.
To the worried Tampa Bay Lightning fans who think that Stamkos will be gone, I say to you, stop worrying. Worry about the power play. Worry about the team’s health. Worry about the teams in the Eastern Conference that are currently points ahead of your team. Don’t worry that this deal hasn’t been announced just yet. Trust in the Yzer-Plan.
To the local Tampa media, some who are doing wonderful imitations of Chicken Little in trying to convince the fan base that the seemingly stalled negotiations are negatively impacting the team, stop adding fuel to the rumored fires. To think that it is effecting the team now more than ever is negated by the FACT that the team has just won three of their last four games. To further invalidate the stance that the stalled contract talks are hurting the Lightning, three of the last four opponents would be in the playoffs if they started today and the fourth team, the Anaheim Ducks were the Western Conference runner ups last season.
Not enough for you? They have also won six of their last nine games. Of those nine games against seven different teams, six of those teams are currently sitting in a playoff spot in their respective conferences with Anaheim being the only non-playoff team played during this span. In other words, when some folks are attempting to gin up how the Stamkos deal or lack thereof is hurting the team, the ‘effected’ players are responding by playing close to .700 hockey against teams that are having very good seasons, playoff seasons.
Sure the Lightning got off to a sluggish start but with the recent upward trend, there is no discernible effect either way regarding Stamkos and the stalled contract announcement. But have faith Lightning fans. It will be done. Just believe. In the meantime, enjoy the team begin to play themselves back into contention for the playoffs. Will he stay or will he go won’t amount to much as the team begins to win and perhaps even recreate another magical post season run.