The summer months act as an amplifier for hockey news, as the smallest morsel can sometimes become a feast of speculation and consternation.
Which brings us to Steven Stamkos and his lack of contract talks with the Tampa Bay Lightning, which became a thing on Wednesday when his agent Don Meehan gave an update to TSN:
“Steven is only a few weeks away from being in the Stanley Cup Final and he’s only just got back to Toronto this past week so he’s going to have an opportunity of getting his feet back on the ground and then coming in and having a discussion with our group in the office. Then we would go from there.
“I don’t think we have any criteria on timing at this point in time. I’ve mentioned to Steve Yzerman that we’re going to have a meeting with Steven, and then once we’ve had the meeting with Steven, then I can go back to Steve (Yzerman). He understands that and understands that Steven is in the process of coming back home and getting acclimatized here and getting into his training. He understands the time frame in that respect.”
“Anytime that you … either management or the player’s side is negotiating a contract or dealing with issues like this it’s substantive, it’s complicated, it’s detailed and it takes some time. So for any decision that’s to be made on behalf on either side, you have to take the right time and consideration.”
How anyone thought this process wouldn’t be meticulous and measured is beyond me, given that Stamkos has a year left on his deal. Everyone involved seems to believe it’ll get done and Stamkos will remain with the Lightning, including the man himself last month:
"I've said it all along, I want to win a championship with this group," Stamkos said. "It's been a great ride this year. I know we'll have some talks, whether it's in the next day or weeks, I don't know. But we'll definitely be getting something worked out hopefully shortly."
"Whenever (the Lightning) want to start talking, we'll be there listening," Stamkos said. "We have a lot of time in this summer."
There have always been three factors in the Stamkos extension that are going to determine his fate:
1. Lightning Economics
One assumes Stamkos is going to skate out of this with the highest cap hit in the NHL, eclipsing the $10.5 million AAV of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. So let’s say he comes in at $10.7 million, a full $3.2 million more that his current hit.
Jettison Braydon Coburn ($4.5 million) and it pays for itself, right?! Well, save for the fact that Nikita Kucherov goes RFA next summer, and Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat go RFA in 2017. Then Victor Hedman goes UFA in 2018.
Does Yzerman have a cap hit in mind that Stamkos can’t leap past, for the sake of the Lightning’s salary structure in the next few seasons?
2. New Challenges
The lingering thought for many is that Stamkos just Babcock’s the whole thing and takes his talents back to Toronto (his home) to bring a Stanley Cup to the Maple Leafs. They’ll have the cap space to pay him whatever he wants, for as long as is possible.
But if winning a Stanley Cup is the priority, and Stamkos for whatever reason wants out of Tampa, there will be other options. And by that we mean don’t sleep on the amount of cap space the Philadelphia Flyers could open up in a hurry to have a holy trinity of Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Stamkos in 2016.
3. Winning the Stanley Cup
The bottom line from Stamkos is that he wants his name on the Cup. Which is, again, why Leafs fans should all convert to Lightning fans next season, because it’s going to be more tempting for him to leave if he does already have that ring. The flip side, of course, is that the views the Lightning as having a Blackhawkian run in them if and when they do win a championship, and given the foundation of this team it’s not that outlandish a view to hold.
To that end, the best thing Steve Yzerman can do in these talks to place a copy of the Lightning roster next to the contract offer he makes to Stamkos. There are few teams that can offer the championship potential Tampa Bay has, going forward. And one assumes that Jeff Vinik will make the money work, even if Yzerman will have to adjust his cap.
Now is not the time to panic.
The start of the season, without a new deal? Yeah, that's a bit more panic time...
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