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As Steven Stamkos, Lightning near deal, are Flyers still alive?The negotiations between restricted free-agent center Steven Stamkos(notes) and the Tampa Bay Lightning have never lacked for intrigue, either real or manufactured.

Contract terms, offer sheet threats, potential trades … things get a little nutty when you have a 21-year-old star with 96 goals in two seasons potentially available.

The latest contract news: Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos reports that an announcement of a new contract "could be looming" and that "the Lightning's last offer was at $37 million over five years -- a deal that would put Stamkos' annual cap hit at $7.4 million."

Dave Pagnotta from The Fourth Period offers more:

It's believed Stamkos will earn an average salary in the $7 million to $7.5 million range, though neither side would confirm term or numbers.  It has been widely reported that another team could swoop in and extend Stamkos an RFA offer sheet, which the 21-year-old would need to agree to and sign, though a source close to the situation said such a tactic was "unlikely."

So an offer sheet isn't forthcoming … what about a trade? Sarah Baicker of CSN Philly passes along this scuttlebutt about the Philadelphia Flyers and Stamkos:

Multiple sources have suggested to CSNPhilly that the Lightning would be interested in acquiring Brayden Schenn(notes), Sergei Bobrovsky(notes) and a future No. 1 draft pick in exchange for Stamkos. Though Holmgren expects Stamkos will eventually re-sign with the Bolts, there are indications he is prepared to make a trade offer if it doesn't happen.

But even after dishing those aforementioned names in order to lure Stamkos to Philly, the Flyers would still likely be forced to shed some salary in order to fit him. Would it be worth it to deal Matt Carle(notes), say, or Scott Hartnell(notes) (both names have been mentioned in trade scenarios)? Probably not — the chances of any of this going down are still very doubtful — but not completely impossible.

Operative phrase: "the Lightning would be interested in acquiring." Are there contingency plans in place in case this thing blows up for GM Steve Yzerman?

If (or when) Stamkos signs with Tampa Bay, his $7.4 million cap hit will place him ninth in the NHL, well behind Alex Ovechkin(notes) (No. 1, $9.538 million) and Sidney Crosby(notes) (No. 2, $8.7 million) and just ahead of Scott Gomez(notes) (No. 9, $7.357 million … still stuns us every time we see it).

The Lightning have 19 players under contract, need to sign forward Teddy Purcell(notes) and maybe add another forward or two. Cap Geek says they currently have $15.4 million under the cap, so Stamkos wouldn't be handcuffing them. But from the sounds of it, the Lightning won't be locking him in to any "lifetime" deal in this negotiation.

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