The Leafs are probably going to sign Steven Stamkos next summer for an obscene amount of money – a league max contract perhaps. This should sound ridiculous, but in this bizarre era of the team it simply doesn’t. You can laugh about it or get all defensive, especially if you’re a Tampa fan, but he’s not locked up yet and this season is a month away. We’ve been down this road before.
If you asked me if Stamkos to the Leafs was possible at the end of last season, I would’ve made some HFBoards-related joke and acted like a jerk on twitter. But that was pre-Babcock. That was pre-Lamoriello. It was before Shanahan decided to just do whatever the hell he wanted.
The reason Stamkos seems like a real possibility now is two-fold when it comes to the Leafs’ new general manager/coach combo. First off, the pure shock from each of those hirings this summer was beyond anything I’ve seen in my time following the team. I truly couldn’t believe it. But secondly, it’s what these two guys now bring to the table in terms of potentially swaying players to Toronto, a place that seems to finally be turning a corner in the sports world as a desirable place to play, particularly in other leagues.
— MLB (@MLB) August 28, 2015
If we look at the Babcock signing itself, there are parallels we can start drawing with the pending Stamkos situation. The Leafs had been rumoured to be in on Babcock for nearly two years, and when things started to get down to a sort of crunch time, the key moment everyone zeroed in on was how he went into last season with the Wings. It was essentially a foregone conclusion he’d be out of Detroit if things weren’t done prior to the season, and the Leafs were always right there as a prime suitor. Was there some communication there between the two sides all along? We’ll obviously never know due to that being, uhhh, tampering, but if the Leafs knew long ahead of time they were willing to give Babcock by far the biggest coaching contract in history, they likely had a way of letting him know.
Then there’s just simply the Babcock effect itself, his resume and status in the hockey world. There’s a reason he’s been tasked with taking the Canadian team to gold in the last two Olympics, and players obviously notice. He instantly establishes a level of respect for the Leafs, especially for potential incoming players. Just how much might be overblown, but there’s no doubt it’s real. These are human beings.
With Lamoriello, again we have that major shock factor with his hiring, perhaps even more so than with Babcock. With Babcock the Leafs just dumped money at him and promised him the world until he couldn’t say no, but Lamoriello was plucked from a team he was with for TWENTY-EIGHT YEARS. He was the Devils. If the Leafs do manage to lure Stamkos to Toronto next summer, it’d actually still be less surprising than the Lou deal. Seriously.
And with Lamoriello, like Babcock, there’s a level of respect demanded league-wide and, for players, desirability to lace them up for a legend. Lou just straight-up does what he wants and no one can stop him. Stamkos will likely see a max deal if the Leafs want to snag him, and the last time the league was pushed to its limit, Lou was the guy to do it with the Kovalchuk deal. He certainly isn’t afraid to blow the doors off and make headlines.
Mainly what it comes down to with Stamkos is this upcoming season, puck drop in October, and whether he’s locked up in Tampa when things get going. If he isn’t, the whole Babcock scenario seems to go into repeat and I’ll truly be convinced him coming to Toronto can be in the cards. And let’s be honest, we all know if there’s going to be a max or near-max deal on the table for Stamkos from Toronto, he knows it. He knows it right now.
And I’m not the first person to wonder if things can go awry in Tampa. Justin Bourne of TheScore tackled this topic from Yzerman’s standpoint just a little while ago. I mean, it’s not unbelievable, and as the season approaches the whole situation just takes on a new life. IF it gets that far, we start talking about teams who might be in on this, and there’s no doubt Toronto is at the front of that line. It’s also a nice coincidence that they just unloaded nearly $8-million in cap space for the next seven years.
It would almost be too perfect for this to happen really. Shanahan has floored the hockey world with his coaching acquisition, then brought in the godfather of general managers, and now it’s time to complete this sort of holy trinity with a massive signing of a megastar player.