Steven Stamkos to Toronto rumors are once again front stage and center after the superstar is found liking a TSN story questioning whether the Maple Leafs would be wise to pursue Stamkos in July.
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Screen grabs caught him red-handed before he soon retracted the like on Twitter. Steven Stamkos told the Tampa Bay Times that he hit that little heart on twitter by mistake (accidentally). Stamkos first made headlines back in 2014 when he liked a story proposing the question, “Will any young NHL star player do what LeBron James did, and return to play for his hometown?”.
Oh boy here we go … pic.twitter.com/7AydNOMBOW
— Ian McLaren (@iancmclaren) December 9, 2015
At the start of 2015-16, I released an article titled “Stamkos Unlikely to Sign an Extension“. The basis behind the piece was that it made little sense from a business standpoint to give Steven Stamkos that much money, with their current roster. Stamkos fate is within his own hands. He makes the last decision whether Steve Yzerman can trade him, or is forced to let him walk into free agency.Nov 19, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) against the New York Rangers during the first period at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The problem for Tampa Bay is that they’ve drafted so well, that they’ve put themselves in a veritable Chicago Blackhawks situation. They could sign Steven Stamkos for top dollar, likely exceeding Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, but you don’t know if this core group can even win a Stanley Cup. If Yzerman extends Steven Stamkos, he’d be forced to sacrifice a couple big pieces like Chicago did with Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd.
Players such as Jonathan Drouin, Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat, Victor Hedman, and Andrei Vasilevskiy are all looking for pay raises in the next few years, among others. If you’re GM Steve Yzerman, you have to ask yourself whether you’re comfortable sacrificing some of those pieces to retain your superstar long-term. Or, would you prefer to keep the rest of those core pieces together (since Tampa Bay would still be an excellent team)?
If Steven Stamkos walks into free agency on July 1st (while staying with Tampa Bay the entire season), it would be a devastating error by Steve Yzerman. It’s well publicized that Stamkos was unhappy with his ice-time in the 2014-15 playoffs. He’s also clarified that uncertainty at the center position has also been a problem. These sound more like issues with coach Jon Cooper than the General Manager. But, if Stamkos feels any resentment, he could make certain that Tampa Bay loses him for nothing. Regardless, Steve Yzerman would be wise to continue pursuing trade options for Steven Stamkos. Getting at least something for him is better than letting him walk for nothing. Yzerman would be wise to find another Stanley Cup contending team interesting in adding the young superstar as a rental.
Sportsnet‘s Nick Kypreos expressed a similar opinion this week, saying he believes that Steven Stamkos will be a free agent on July 1st. He also made it clear that Steven Stamkos has full control of his destiny. If he doesn’t want to accept a trade, he won’t, and he’ll walk into free agency.
When asked, “If you were the GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs, would you pursue Steven Stamkos in a trade?”. TSN‘s Bob McKenzie made point of how it would be counterproductive to what they’re trying to do with their rebuild. However, he said he would pursue the young superstar on July 1st.
Toronto management has declared a hefty timetable for how long they expect the rebuild to take. Modern-day NHL differs from the past, as a re-build no longer takes a half-decade. This could be attributed to parity in today’s NHL, well that, and a solid netminder between the pipes. There’s a lot hypothetical variables that could make the Toronto Maple Leafs instantaneously better in 2016-17.
Leafs prospect William Nylander has been on a tear this season with the team’s AHL affiliate, among the league-leaders in scoring. There’s another young man with OHL’s London Knights named Mitch Marner, who’s making a statement in 2015-16 that he plans to be with the big club in 2016-17. Steven Stamkos remains one of two wild-card’s that could change the franchise in a hurry. The other factor comes in the form of Toronto’s 2016 lottery draft, which could easily be a top three pick. The top of the 2016 draft class is anything but set in stone, although the addition of either Auston Matthews, Jakob Chychrun, or Jesse Puljujarvi could have an instant impact.
How do you feel about this hockey fans? Is this just Toronto media doing what they do best, stirring the pot of rumors? What happens when Steven Stamkos comes into Toronto next Tuesday to play the Maple Leafs? Would Steve Yzerman be wise to lock down his young superstar and clear these distractions before playoff-time? Would Stamkos even waive his no-movement clause if Tampa Bay finds a rental situation for him? If you think so, where’s the best fit to capture a Stanley Cup?