I think Steven Stamkos could become a Maple Leaf this offseason. That's assuming Brad Richards has signed with another lover, but it could happen.
In the few hours before the lovely sunny weather and the cold beer started to numb my senses, I saw a very weary and slightly annoyed Stevie Yzerman answer some media questions in regards to the Stamkos negotiations.
Body language means a lot, and from where I was standing it didn't look too good.
Stevie looked like a beaten mule in front of the media—more so then he normally does, anyway.
The facts are thus: Tampa lost a ton of money last year (anywhere from $25 million to 30 million), all while working a team close the the salary floor AND going to the conference finals.
They have players with contracts of size, term and with NT/NM clauses. Tough to work around.
And most importantly, if Stamkos is so sure to be Tampa's signed jewel, why isn't he? Why has it gotten to the point where he can be offer sheeted?
My guess is that Stamkos' agency is asking (and rightly so) to be paid in today's wages to slightly less than what Ovie and Crosby asked for when their ELC ended. I'm estimating it's $8 million to $9 million and for some term, nothing near 12 years—more like sevenish.
I'm well aware that I've got the Kool-Aid in my hand and I'm typing in my blue and white colored glasses (and I thank God for spell-check). If it came down to trading Stamkos, Stevie Y would have a lot of teams knocking on his door.
But throw that to the wind because I'm drunk.
According to reports, Mike Richards could have been had for Kadri and Kulemin but a better deal was already on the table in L.A. and the Kings (rightly so) went in that direction. So let's say that deal was close—but no cigar.
Let's build on it. Kadri and Kulemin.
Add Gunnarson, that's a given. Throw in three first-round picks—I personally feel Burke really doesn't know how to use them for drafting skilled talent anyways.
Then to seal the deal, give them a prospect in our system of their choosing.
Any one they want other than Tyler Biggs, whose size and truculence just about stops Burke's infatuated heart like a mack truck hitting Bambi doing 120.
Can it be done? Absolutely. Tampa Bay isn't prepared to pay another player $8-plus million. In initial contract negotiations, I think they were hoping he'd settle for for around $6 million.
Their fanbase, as much as they love Stamkos, feels his talents are mainly riding on the coattails of St Louis. And to a point they may be right. Point is, there's an elasticity to the fanbase that doesn't dive into the fanatical. Stamkos is no Wendel Clark to Lightning fans.
In the end, it comes down to this: Stamkos would want to play in Toronto over all the other teams that offer Stevie Y trading options. And that may be the case because he was a honest-to-God Leafs fan growing up. Not an admirer, but a fanatic like myself. As a matter of fact, if life had taken a different route for him, it could be him writing this article about some other hopeful RFA signing he'd want the Leafs to sign. Obviously, I'd be that RFA holding out for the millions.
As it appears to me (with a very nice Canada Day buzz) if Stamkos says no to any offer coming Tampa Bay's way, then that means he's in the driver's seat in any trade situation.
So if Minnesota (and it's just an example because I've vacationed in Minny many times and I absolutely love the area and City) offered a much better package, it would come straight down to whether Stamkos signs on the dotted line to play there.
And that my friends is a huge bargaining chip in the RFA's corner.
Happy Canada Day, everyone.
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