June 21, 2008
Does Stevie Y see any similarities? "I've seen him play a handful of times," said Yzerman, working the draft table for the Wings here in Ottawa. "To compare him at 18 to where I was as a second-year junior, [and] he's light-years ahead of where I was. He's just more of a dynamic player than I was."
Stamkos appeared on Day 2 off the draft -- unlike Jared Staal, a curious no-show after being selected by the Phoenix Coyotes with the 49th overall pick -- and said his family rented out half of the Empire Grill in Ottawa to celebrate going No. 1. "It was great to just enjoy the moment with friends and family. We took lots of pictures, so it'll be a memorable night."
Part of this savoring of the moment is putting off any serious thoughts about his rookie contract with Tampa Bay. Patrick Kane, last year's No. 1 overall for the Chicago Blackhawks, earned a three-year deal at $875,000 per year, which is the maximum for rookies. Since Stamkos is going to be making some decent coin, I asked him his post-contract luxury item of choice.
"I just got 'Stamer' license plates from my uncle yesterday. I told him I'm going to put it on my bicycle right now until I get my contract."
What might be the future millionaire's ride? "I've always liked the Lincoln Navigator, but Tampa Bay is a warm spot, so I might have to change that. Especially with gas prices," he said.
Incentives are a tricky thing for a rookie contract, but Stamkos suggested an interesting one: Killing, or dying, in a "Saw" movie.
Oren Koules, the new co-owner of the Lightning and the man who helped give the world Cary Elwes sawing off his own foot, was on stage to congratulate Stamkos last night. Turns out there's mutual respect here. "Those are probably one of my favorite movies, to be honest with you," said Stamkos. "It might sound a little crazy that I'm saying that. I love all the blood and guts."
"Maybe we can work something in the contract where I can appear in the next 'Saw' movie. Maybe I chop someone's head off. Maybe I get my head chopped off."
Where, exactly, does that incentive fall under the new CBA salary cap?
The only knock on Stamkos that's been addressed here at the draft is his size: 6 foot, 180 pounds according to the draft guide. He said he's not sure why it's an issue. "When you look at guys like Patrick Kane and Simon Gagne, they're not the biggest guys. I'm bigger than Kane and Gagne, for sure. I think with the new rules in the NHL, with the new style of play, you can come into the League and make an impact right away. It's more [about] your individual skills set."
The benefits for Stamkos playing in Tampa Bay are obvious: He won't come in as a franchise savior, and he will be playing with a legit star in Vinny Lecavalier. "I think this is the perfect situation for me. He went through the same thing 10 years ago," said Stamkos. "Everyone's been telling me he's a great guy off the ice, and I'm really excited to meet him."
As for playing for the Lightning next season, Stamkos has some rather lofty hopes.
"They didn't deserve to finish that low in the standings," he said. "I'm not coming into a team that's in a rebuilding stage. This team is ready to win a championship."