Is Steven Stamkos available for a trade ahead of the trade deadline?

Is Steven Stamkos available for a trade ahead of the trade deadline?

Oct 25, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN;  Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steve Stamkos (91) celebrates
Oct 25, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steve Stamkos (91) celebrates / Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos has been one of the best goal-scorers since he made his NHL debut in 2008. With one of the better releases in the game, he has been a staple for point production in Lightning history. However, is his time running out in Tampa Bay?

Stamkos was drafted first overall in the 2008 NHL Draft after two successful seasons with the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League. In Sarnia, he produced 100 goals and 97 assists for 197 points in only 124 games.

He would play his first NHL game in Prague, Czech Republic, on October 4, 2008, losing to the New York Rangers 2-1. He made quite the impression and would score his first NHL point, a primary assist, eight days later on a goal by Vincent Lecavalier.

Many years later, he is thought by most as the best player in franchise history. He leads the franchise in games (1,057), goals (538), points (1,106), even-strength goals (326), game-winning goals (83), and hat tricks (12).

Are the Tampa Bay Lightning going to trade Steven Stamkos this year?

Stamkos and the Lightning are entering a critical phase in his career as he has spent his entire career in Tampa Bay with the Lightning. The 34-year-old from Markham, Ontario, Canada, will be an unrestricted free agent after this season but has a no-movement clause.

This means the player, Stamkos, cannot be waived, assigned to the minors, or traded without the player's approval. His contract takes up 10.2% of the Lightning cap space, which has no projected cap space left. His last deal was an 8-year deal worth $68 million, an average annual value of $8.5 million.

Stamkos has participated in seven all-star games, has twice won the Rocket Richard trophy (2009-10, 2011-12) for most goals by a single player in a season, won the 2022-23 Mark Messier Leadership Award, and won two Stanley Cups with the Lightning.

Tampa Bay General Manager Julien BriseBois has to get creative if he is going to make a deal at the trade deadline. Unrestricted free agents after the season include Stamkos, Tyler Motte, Austin Watson, Calvin de Haan, and Haydn Fleury.

If Motte, Watson, de Haan, and Fleury walk, this still leaves Stamkos available for a new deal, yet no cap space for him to re-sign.

This season, Stamkos has 24 goals and 28 assists for 52 points in 60 games but is a career-worst -24. While this creates a problem, not only for Stamkos but for the organization as well.

How does Brisebois re-sign him to no cap space? Maybe he gets moved instead. Tampa Bay is looking for prospects due to their prospect pipeline being ranked 29th in the league.

Stamkos could get the Lightning a nice package in return, setting them up for future success. The Chicago Blackhawks ($9.2 million available), Anaheim Ducks ($8.427), and the Buffalo Sabres ($8.038) have the most projected cap space for a player of his talent and the cap will be slightly going up next season.

Anaheim (5), Buffalo (1), and Chicago (7) are ranked in the top 10 for prospect pipeline within the organization.

This would work in favor of the Lightning if a deal could be swung as they would certainly want prospects in a deal if one were to be done. Tampa Bay almost immediately needs prospects to rebuild their prospect pool.

This is not a guarantee that Stamkos will be traded in any way. However, Tampa Bay have their backs against the wall with one of their best players going to UFA status after the season with no funds to re-sign him.

As mentioned above, he is the only free agent to be that would garner any significant package in return. Sooner or later, Tampa Bay will have to start parting ways with some of their bigger stars or come up with a way to gain more cap space and restock their prospect system.

This move would be a good start to the retooling of the roster and they could bolster their organization with a roster player, prospect, and a draft pick or two in return for his services. It is something to keep an eye on as the trade deadline approaches.