The Boltosphere is all in a tizzy these days because Steven Stamkos, who’s in the final year of his last RFA contract, hasn’t signed an extension.
This is not the first time this has happened, of course. We all bear the scars of the last #Stammergeddon in 2011. When he signed in July. It is now the latter part of August. So it’s getting a little antsy in here.
I don’t necessarily have the feeling that Stamkos won’t sign. I don’t have the feeling that he will, though, either. I know I’m going to hear from a whole slew of other writers that it’s still early and still preseason and he’s still under contract for another year anyway. But, really, you’re all just fooling yourselves.
It is late. Not hugely late. Not panic-inducingly late. But it is a little bit late to be hearing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about the state of these contract talks. Not even “they met today” kind of stuff. Total radio silence is okay in June or even July, given how late the season ended. August, though? It’s reasonable to have some concern.
Because I can guarantee you that if there’s no agreement by the opening of training camp the next thing we’ll hear is that they (meaning Stamkos and his agent) don’t want to negotiate during the season but that he loves playing in Tampa.
Then before you know it, he’s taking questions about this at the All-Star game and saying “it’s not just about the money” and we’re all parsing every word and debating trading him and making “Please sign, Stammer. We love you.” videos and probably church signs because this is Tampa and then he goes and signs in Minnesota of all places for like the entirety of the salary cap because, hey, it’s not all about the money.
I’m just saying I’ve been here before. It’s about the money and loyalty is dead.
On the other hand, I don’t think this is an undoable thing. If it were I’d be a bit less concerned. Certainly some kind of max contract would be tough to work around, but there are ways to make it work without selling off all the young talent.
For one thing, you need young talent to be a Cup contender, not just marginally useful veterans, a bunch of rookies, and one superstar in his prime. If you have half a chance, you trade away one or more of the veterans like, say, Valtteri Filppula, despite the fact that the team would be Finn-less and significantly less blond if you did.
Filppula is one of those moderately useful veterans and he’s got a cap hit of $5 million and if you have to choose between him and Steven Stamkos plus Alex Killorn or I don’t know, Ondrej Palat, sorry but näkemiin, Val.
The kids might get more in trade, but that’s because they’ll provide value above their contract for another few years and Steve Yzerman would have to be Mike Milbury not to see that. I thank all the heavens daily that Steve Yzerman is not Mike Milbury.
It’s that very dynamic that makes trading Stamkos a losing proposition if it comes down to it. Nothing you get in exchange for Stamkos will be worth what you give up unless you are, in fact, trading with an idiot. There are plenty of idiots out there, but they’ve already traded all the good players for gritty fourth liners with heart so there’s nothing left to put together a package for Stamkos.
Plus, and this always gets ignored, Steven Stamkos has a no move clause in his contract, so he controls where he goes.
In the end, I expect that Yzerman will do everything possible to retain Stamkos for the long haul but that even he has a line he can’t cross. If he’s as smart as I think he is, that line is drawn around the young core of the Triplets, Kucherov, Drouin, Killorn, Hedman, and Vasilevskiy. Maybe Stralman, too. With everyone else a deal can potentially be done.
Again, though. Steven Stamkos has to agree to all of this. If he doesn’t, if this drags of for another six months, trade him. It will be painful, but that doesn’t make it the wrong thing to do.