Mirtle: Stamkos Likely To Walk Away from Tampa Bay

It’s something we’ve been talking about for a few weeks now – is it possible that Steven Stamkos could become a Toronto Maple Leaf on July 1st, 2016? It would be a strong possibility for sure if Stamkos decided to walk away from the Tampa Bay Lightning, the team that drafted him and the only team he’s ever known, but that’s a big ‘if’. The Leafs have a star head coach, a boatload of cap room, and a stocked cupboard of up-and-coming talent – all things that would be very, very tempting to a potential free agent. 

That said, players of Stamkos’s calibre rarely hit the open market. History dictates it’s unlikely he ever does, but The Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle seems pretty sure that Stamkos will end up leaving Florida for a fresh start somewhere else.

There’s a couple of interesting things here, so let’s unpack…

The Player-Coach Relationship is Not Good

At best, Stamkos simply disagrees with Lightning head coach Jon Cooper about being played on the wing instead of centre, a controversial switch during last year’s playoffs that is being attempted again this season.
At worst? Stamkos and the coach have an active dislike for one another. In fact, some say they rarely talk to one another – and that that’s not a unique situation in Tampa.

So many times before, we’ve seen a coach moved out before a star player. I mean, one is significantly more replaceable and the other is a star goddamn player. The issue here? Lightning GM Steve Yzerman just handed his head coach a multi-year contract extension just over a week ago. 

If things are bad between Stamkos and Cooper now, it’s not going to be getting any better anytime soon.

I mean, very shortly after that happened, Stamkos fave’d on Twitter a link to a TSN story regarding the Leafs’ interest in bringing Stamkos home. An accident? Hahaha, yeah, ok.

Tampa Already Entertained Moving Stamkos

I mean, if re-signing a not-very-liked head coach doesn’t so it, how about the fact that your team has already discussed trading you? That’s gotta be constantly sitting at the back of your head.

From Mirtle…

It is widely believed that Yzerman already investigated trading Stamkos before the no-movement clause kicked in. Prior to the draft, the Lightning were in discussions with the Buffalo Sabres about a potential deal for the second-overall pick, which they eventually used to take Jack Eichel.
Depending on who you believe – and we’re dealing with a rumour mill gone absolutely wild right now – those discussions were either very preliminary or somewhat advanced.
Those who argue they were advanced say that it was Stamkos who nixed the deal, because one condition the Sabres put on the blockbuster trade was that they had to be able to sign him to an extension.

I’m not going to lie, swapping out Stamkos for Eichel would have been a pretty solid play by Yzerman. I’m not certain that Eichel will be as good a player was Stamkos one day, but he certainly looks like the real deal now and so rarely does a team ever get close to fair value when they unload star talent.

But hey, that’s not the point. If I’m Stamkos, I’m pissed that my GM not only thought about trading me already, but thought about trading me to Buffalo of all places. Talk about insult to injury.

Toronto Can and Will Pay Up

I’m already convinced that Stamkos is going to be in Toronto – I’d be very surprised if he wasn’t at this point. All it boils down to now is waiting out Stamkos’ contract and talking financials. If Tampa Bay doesn’t want to surround the face of their franchise with a coach who will mesh well with him, if they would rather a shiny new prospect, or if they’d rather just not pay him the record-breaking contract he will likely command… well, it looks like they’ll lose him for nothing.

That’s Toronto’s gain, because they will pay him what Tampa won’t. And if you don’t believe Stamkos is worth the money, like the Leafs certainly will, you’re a fool

  • Harold Ballard

    I’m not so sure the Leafs will pay up. It’s against the fancy-stats religion to sign big stars to huge contracts. There will be strong voices upstairs arguing for getting a bunch of ‘corsi-monsters’ on short-term / entry-level contracts rather thN throwing all that money at a super-star.

      • silentbob

        It would be against the pure Money way of doing things, but the Leafs are not doing things “the pure money ball” way.

        The downside to getting Stamkos is that effectively ends the rebuild. They won’t spend that much money on the 2nd or 3rd best player in the league and still try to tank and draft high for 2-3 more seasons. It only makes sense to bring Stamkos in if they believe they have the young players they need build a winner and want to quickly flip the “losing to winning” switch.

        Best case – they get 4-6 years of “prime Stamkos” production followed by another 3-5 years declining, but quality hockey from him. He becomes a/the leader of the team and is a positive influence on guys like Nylander and Marner, give them a high level veteran to play with, help them ease into the league and eventually take his spot as the top player on the team.

        Worst case – they prematurally bring in Stamkos, ultimately they find out they don’t have the future winning core they thought they had in Rielly, Nylander, & Marner. Stamkos spends 4-5-6 years in Toronto as Sundin part 2.

  • silentbob

    To me the signing of Stamkos would indeed be new territory for M.L.S.E. Let us not forget that Rogers is losing between 20 to 34% on their t.v. contract in viewership. They are not major players in going after the high priced David Prices’s of the world. Already they are himming and hawing on E.E. and Joey Batts who will be free agents next season if the Jays don’t sign them. The Raptors under Roger, Bell and Larry have never gone over the salary cap and have never paid the big bucks for a tier one free agent. In fact the rumours have it that they will let DeRozan walk away to his home town of L.A. to get a big contract.

    So as I say paying over $10 million for Stamkos would indeed be a unique moment in the history of this ownership of M.L.S.E. I will wait to see the signature on the dotted line by Stamkos before I get excited. But other than that it creates plenty of hay to feed the masses.

    • magesticRAGE

      The profit margin on the Leafs as an organization, is ridiculous. They can and will buck up to the cap if need be, no problem. The Jays are a different story, where Rogers is in it alone, and have to set their own cap, which is twice that of the NHL. Huge difference.

    • Jeremy Ian

      Down on TV returns? I would have thought that the best thing the brass could do is sign Stamkos.

      Sometimes, argument by analogy works. But analogizing to the the Jays or Raptors doesn’t. The multiplier effects on MLSE revenues of Stamkos and his young crew going into the playoffs next year IN Toronto? Think about what that would do to MLSE net worth. Price and DeRozan are great players. But they are nothing, nothing, compared to what Stamkos would bring to the bottom line. Toronto, and Canada, breathe hockey in a way that basketball and baseball never will.

      Just, just imagine Stamkos on the Leafs for 8 years. OK, now you are on the board. Close your eyes. What would you do? From a business perspective, it sure beats our last messiah, David Clarkson, and actually helps you forget the mistakes you authorized under the old regime.

      Whether it’s good hockey sense is another issue. Personally, they should flinch for a nano-second, and then make it work.

  • The issue here is, with UFAs overpaid as they are, can Stamkos cover the value of the very likely gigantic contract he is handed on July 1?

    If he’s traded before the deadline, then he can expect 8 years. That takes him to 35 years old, meaning that roughly 2-5 years of his contract are guaranteed to be below value. For a team loading up on young talent, like the Leafs are (Rielly, Nylander, Marner), a 27-year-old eating up that much cap space in a period when the cap isn’t expected to rise that much, isn’t a great deal. And he won’t be part of the age cluster. If he signs with the Leafs after the season, it’s 7 years but that’s still not that much relief.

    Second, Jon Cooper is widely considered a very good coach. He sees Stamkos as a winger. Stamkos is average in the faceoff circle, indifferent as a two-way player, and scores mostly – like Ovechkin – from being set up on top of the circle. Where will Babs slot him? If Babcock sees him as a winger, too, does Stamkos mope about it?

    Third, as we can see from Chicago’s slide this season, and from Pittsburgh’s middling results since their Cup win, supporting cast matters and supporting cast aren’t willing to accept $1m/season just to make the superstar happy. It’s unlikely, IMHO, that Chicago wins another Cup during the new Toews/Kane/Seabrook contracts (even with a sweetheart Keith deal), and the probability of Pittsburgh doing the same with Malkin/Crosby/Letang raking in what they are is similarly slim.

    So the question really is, do the Leafs gamble that they can assemble a team around Stamkos/Rielly/Marner/Nylander before Stamkos declines too much? Or are they patient and build from within?

  • magesticRAGE

    Is it possible if he really wants to be a leaf that he would take a home town discount? I mean if I was in him I would take a lower cap hit because of all the endorsement deals would be their and I’m sure he would be plastered all over Toronto. This is just my perspective but I guess some people just want a big pile of money

  • Javid

    Can we talk about this for a second? How does signing Stamkos at ?5+ million more than Kessel and retaining 1.2M in salary make any sense?

    Is Stamkos better than Kessel? yes. Is he that much better? I wouldn’t say so.

    The Shanaplan couldn’t have been “hey lets trade away our best player that is signed long term to a team friendly contract for someone that does what he does somewhat better for almost twice as much”.

    • silentbob

      He’ll turn 26 in February, meaning his first year here he’ll be 26-27 years old.

      Certainly not old or over the hill or anything like that, but also not so young that he is someone you’d bring into a rebuild situation.

      I don’t really agree with ColourMeImpressed – his numbers are not right, and one of the benefits to Stamkos is that he isn’t part of the “age cluster” that Rielly, Nylander, Marner etc… are. The risk with Stamkos is that if they sign him, they won’t be “buying lottery tickets” anymore. If none of the ones they have are winners…….

      I’m not saying they should or shouldn’t take that risk, just pointing out that is the risk.

  • Where is this 35-year old nonsense coming from? Stamkos will be 26 at the beginning of next season, and if he goes to a new team in UFA then he’s allowed to sign a max seven-year deal.

    He’ll be 32 in the final year of his contract. That’s not old.

    • BarelyComments

      My mistake, I thought he was 26 turning 27 this season. Throw in 8 years would have made him 35. Bad googling. Still, he’ll be 34 if he gets an 8-year-deal (which IIRC is the max a contract extension can be?)

      • silentbob

        I believes its 8 years for a team resigning a player, 7 years for a player signing with a new team (giving teams resigning their players an advantage). This means if he signs a max length contract with the Leafs he’ll be 32 at the start of his final year and 33 at the end of it.

  • Gary Empey

    There is absolutely no good reason any NHL team wouldn’t want Stamkos.

    Stamkos is the same age as Kadri. He is younger than JVR.

    This is a hybrid re-build. Leafs are loaded with first round draft picks and two more on the way this year. The team doesn’t play like they are tanking at all. Only one core player was traded (Kessel). The main rebuild was a total change of all managemet positions.

    The idea of just being horrible for five years and drafting at the top of the draft is no longer realistic team-building strategy. A couple of years of smart drafting, at most. You can’t just flip a switch and say “OK everyone start playing to win.”

    The “home town discount” ? Are you asking Stamkos to leave 20 to 30 million on the table? His agent is sure to point that out.

    • silentbob

      What the hell is a hybrid rebuild?

      And they don’t play like a tanking team – but they are 2nd last in the NHL. Babcock is getting the most out of the players but they knowingly put together a team that just isn’t good enough to win. Thats tanking. And all they needed last year to get into that positin was to trade 1 player (and who doesn’t expect more players to be moved out before the end of this season?)

      It looks like the Leafs are about to get their 3rd top 5 pick in 5 years (and 4th top 10), and this team won’t be competitive until those players start playing in the NHL – they are doing what you’re saying isn’t realistic.

      What you do have right is that you can’t flip a switch and say “start winning”. Thats part of the benefit of having a coach like Babcock and making the team play the way they have been, it SHOULD make that change easier once we get more talented players on the roster. Adding Stamkos speeds up that process and probably makes it harder for the Leafs to stay the 2nd worst team in the NHL.

  • Gary Empey

    Might be a long shot, but what happens if the Leafs win the lottery and can draft Auston Matthews? Would that put an end to the Stamkos to Toronto craze? Or do we want Stamkos and Matthews?

    I’m keeping my fingers crossed more for the draft lottery than for Stamkos to be honest with you.

  • For years all we (Toronto) wanted is a number one center. Then a local guy like Stamkos comes along in his prime…. now according to some above he’s too old and doesn’t fit in with a rebuild? He’s 26…. What else do you truly want if not this?

    The thing about the rebuild is you can’t rely on tanking and getting a top 1-3 level draft pick. Doing that 5 years in a row is not the only factor that plays into a rebuild. Toronto has been rebuilding for years and now we have guys in the pipeline coming up. It just took us 10 years to get there because we were doing things that I mention below.

    It’s the underlying system built by guys like Babcock and the rest of the farm system that shapes the rebuild. Not just tanking for draft picks, albeit high picks are important.

    Rebuilding means not signing fledgling middle of the road players like Clarkson and rental players for 4-5M a year that pushes you out of a top 7 or so draft position and up into the 10-13 range.

    We’re talking about Stamkos, a top 10 scorer in the league in his prime. End of argument.