Fennelly rehashes all the reasons why signing Stamkos is essential. The 276 career goals at 25 years old. The star factor. The fact that you don’t want this hanging over training camp, and then the season, before Stamkos goes UFA next summer.
“To me, it’s simple: Sign Stamkos,” he writes.
If only it were.
It would be an upset of historic proportions if Stamkos doesn’t make at least what Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane make against the cap ($10.5 million), and logic (and ego) would dictate he makes more than that. And that hits right at the heart of this conundrum facing GM Steve Yzerman: At what price point can you keep Stamkos without having to delete significant assets from your roster to keep him?
What’s the price for Nikita Kucherov after next season if he scores 30 goals, or a new deal for power forward Alex Killorn? Two seasons down the road, what about paying Ben Bishop, Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat?
We haven’t mentioned Victor Hedman, the breakout star in the Cup run. What will Hedman command two seasons from now to keep from turning free agent? The Lightning will be in the same position with Hedman next summer as they are right now with Stamkos.
Face it: Signing Stamkos will mean losing someone else. Ask the Blackhawks. They’ve already traded Brandon Saad away from the Cup team.
Hedman is up in 2017. The potential is there for him to win a Norris Trophy before then, meaning that his next deal could be closer to P.K. Subban’s $9 million annual hit than, say, Ryan Suter’s $7.5 million.
Johnson and Palat are up in 2017 as well. What on Earth are they going to cost?
The Blackhawks were in a different situation. Losing Saad hurts, no doubt, but that decision came after three Stanley Cups since 2010. That’s a blinding afterglow. They’re also a team that has already shown an ability to replenish its supporting cast around star players.
If the Lightning had to lose someone from its core to sign Stamkos, it’s almost self-defeating, isn’t it? That Stamkos would remain with the Lightning because they’re a strong, young contender, but in order to do so they have to get worse?
More from Fennelly:
And remember the Cooper factor. Will talented Lightning coach Jon Cooper have any say in Stamkos’ future, and does he think this team needs No. 91 to contend on an annual basis? We’ll see if Cooper’s own star power counts for anything in this discussion. It’s a worry.
This is true. Stamkos is not one of Coop’s Troops; and the last time we saw him on the ice, Stamkos was playing out of position and struggling offensively, partially because of it. Cooper loves his game, no doubt. But Stamkos isn’t his guy in the same way the Triplets are his guys, and that’s an interesting dynamic to see play out.
However, Steven Stamkos is Steve Yzerman’s guy. And Yzerman has said getting him inked is his priority. In a push-pull between GM and coach, I think we all know who wins that tug-of-war.
No one really knows what’s going on in Stamkos’s noggin, beyond dancing dollar signs. The connection to the Toronto Maple Leafs has lingered for years, almost as a joke considering the disparity of success between them and the Lightning; does that change now that they have the League of Extraordinary Hockey Gentlemen at the helm?
The Philadelphia Flyers have straight-up coveted Stamkos for years; would he want to play there, becoming the LeBron to Giroux and Voracek’s D-Wade and Bosh?
I think he ends up signing with the Lightning again, long-term. And I think the contract he signs is going to force the team to make some deep cuts by 2017. Which means there’s a two-year window to win with this group.
It’s as simple as that.
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