Steven Stamkos: Can Tampa Bay Lightning Really Afford To Keep Their Young Star?

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Steven Stamkos: Can Tampa Bay Lightning Really Afford To Keep Their Young Star?
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Will there be an offer sheet storm soon? Tampa Bay fans sure better hope not.

Somebody put the Steven Stamkos Watch on the board please. We are now heading into the sixth day of free agency and a contract for the young dynamo has not been put to paper yet. If you scour the Internet you can find anything from stories that he and the Tampa Bay Lightening are "close," to endless speculation by other team's fans salivating at the thought of Stammer wearing their team's colors.

What do we know about the situation except for Stamkos bearing a resemblance to Sean Penn's legendary character, Jeff Spicoli, from Fast Times at Ridgemont High? For starters, signing the star is not going to come cheap.

Stamkos is a restricted free agent, which is the only true saving grace for the Bolts. According to Fox News, only six restricted free agents have been signed to offer sheets since 2005.

But Steven Stamkos appears to be a once-in-a-generation talent. Unless you are willing to bet your job on your team contending for a Stanley Cup in the next one to three years, strong consideration should be given to blowing the team up and starting over with Stammer as the centerpiece.

Coming up with an offer sheet is relatively easy. Basically, all you have to do is decide the price you want to pay Stamkos for, put some term to it and make the offer. The hard part is getting back under the cap by the deadline prior to the season. If a GM can pull that off, it could be Executive of the Year worthy.

Assuming Stamkos gets anything close to a maximum salary, the compensation according to would be four first-round choices. Steep to say the least, but is a Stamkos just going to come along again from the Sarnia Sting or Rimouski Oceanic? The chance is slim.

So all that is standing between the Lightning and franchise disaster is one team that is willing to say, "Yeah, let's see if he'll bite at a 12-year, $120 million deal." Toronto, Philadelphia, New York Islanders—I am looking in your direction. You know you want to.

But what are four measly first-round picks anyway when you have a perennial Art Ross, Hart Memorial and Rocket Richard Trophy candidate? Plus EA Sports would have to put your team's picture on its cover instead of the Bolts. Pretty cool.

Luckily for the Tampa Bay organization, they have some things working in their favor. It all starts with the fact that no matter what the offer, they have the right to match it.

So the question really becomes, can the Lightning afford to keep their young star free agent? To the slides!

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