Friday, June 10, 2016

Where Does Stamkos Land?

As we draw closer and closer to the NHL silly season, one of the big questions leading up to it is, "where does Steven Stamkos sign?"

First and foremost, the leading factor for this decision is how Stamkos' relationship with the team, general manager Steve Yzerman and head coach Jon Cooper is going forward and even before the blood clot issue, which cost him the back half of the season and most of the playoffs, we were under the impression that things were not very rosy.

Speculation sucks.  Basing a lot of what these rumours are on is a bit rough around the edges and we will never know the full story, until someone writes a book and even then, we should take some of those reports with a grain of salt as well.

Nevertheless, out of boredom, we trudge along and have a little bit of fun, at the expense of looming questions about a superstar player.  Let's all try and offer a guess, as to what goes on, in an attempt to kill some time, yeah?

Does Stamkos re-sign in Tampa Bay?  I don't see why Stamkos wouldn't want to try and field some offers from other clubs, since the Lightning have seemingly moved on, in a sense, feeling very comfortable making it to the Eastern Conference Finals without him in their lineup and not really finding a boost when he returned to the lineup for that final game.  There were reports that the coaching staff wanted to shift his position, there is a sense that he is now a second line player for this team and he isn't being leaned on as a superstar anymore for this club.  That's the impression I'm getting.

Yzerman has publicly said that he would like to re-sign Stamkos, but I do get the feeling that it is a bit more posturing for the off-season, more than a genuine statement, but that's just my opinion.  I truly believe that Yzerman needs to keep up appearances, making sure that if he moves the negotiating rights for Stamkos, he gets a decent return for them.

Will teams want a guy like Stamkos?  Well, of course they would, dummy.  His expiring cap hit in the 2016 season was $7.5 million, which isn't a small chunk of change, but for a potential 50-goal scorer, that's not an unreasonable number.  It also begs the question about his negotiating rights and how much they are worth, if a team is going to end up with such a quality player.  A 2nd round pick?  A package of picks?  There is certainly no guarantee that he will even sign with the team that acquires his rights.

Two teams that have popped up the most in the  Stamkos discussions have been the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings, but it would be silly to think that there isn't more teams in the weeds, waiting to offer up a tasty package to attract the rights of Stamkos or in a much better scenario, hope that the 26-year old makes it to unrestricted free agency and the open market.

The Maple Leafs have to be the favourite destination for those trying to predict the future. Their rebuild allows them some cap freedom, it gives Stamkos the opportunity to get back to some big minutes on the ice and it is close to home as well.  The downside to signing in Toronto is that they are still a little ways from being a great playoff threat, which is the ultimate goal for any player, especially the superstars.  If Toronto could land a marquee player like Stamkos, add Auston Matthews to the mix at the draft, they will expedite the process, without any doubt.

The Red Wings are a different kettle of fish altogether and their involvement in the Stamkos scenario hinges on the future of Pavel Datsyuk and rightly so.  If Datsyuk comes to the final conclusion that he will sign his retirement papers in the NHL, giving him the free and clear to sign with a KHL team of his choosing, the Red Wings will still be on the hook for his salary cap hit, which is still very significant ($7.5 million).

Datsyuk's 35+ contract will count against the cap, if he chooses to retire, so the only way that the Red Wings could possibly afford Stamkos, would be to move that cap hit to a team that could absorb that hit and offer up an asset for their troubles.  Those teams are becoming few and far between and the asking price to eat up that much cap room would likely be high.  Most teams won't likely know if they're in or out on this situation until after the 2017 season cap numbers are announced, which should be soon.

There are more ifs than answers in this scenario, but the Red Wings would certainly benefit by having a talent like Stamkos join their ranks, as the old guard of Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg age themselves out.  The move would also keep the Red Wings in the playoff relevant conversation and give them a building block to work around.  Stamkos isn't the end-all solution for the Red Wings though, as their depth in other spots is questionable, but at least they would have an attractive piece to sway other free agents their way.

Instead of being a team that would want to take on the cap hit to allow the Red Wings to sign Stamkos, why couldn't the Arizona Coyotes throw their hat into the ring and possibly offer him a key spot in their future?

Much like the Maple Leafs, the Coyotes are not short on cap space and flexibility for a top end player like Stamkos.  The Coyotes are rich in draft picks this year, able to shift something to sway the negotiating rights over.  They would get an established superstar into their market, after missing out on the draft lottery for one of the top end draft picks and let's not forget, they have lots of top end talent to play with Stamkos, making it into a remarkably great fit in the end.

It would be a daunting task to help this Coyotes team succeed in the desert, which would be a possible downside to moving out to Arizona, but if there is one guy that could give it a solid swing, it would be Stamkos.

I honestly can't see Stamkos re-signing in Tampa Bay, when there is opportunity for more hockey and more responsibility elsewhere.  There are going to be established teams that wish that they could afford to talk to such a great player, but they would have to give up on someone, in order to make that deal go, which is too big of a gamble for those teams.  I like the rebuilding and retooling teams to come around with reasonable offers to pry the negotiating rights away and you will know when Tampa Bay has realized that they have nothing left to offer, because they will likely move his rights for a bit less than what they valued him at.

It's anyone's guess around here... but it's sure going to make for good hockey news when it all goes down.

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