Steven Stamkos, Lightning should lean toward Crosby’s contract rather than Ovechkin’s deal

As we discussed in the last post, the Tampa Bay Lightning face a rather unusual (and potentially calamitous) negotiation process with young star Steven Stamkos. Although they would retain the right to match any offer a team throws his way, it would still be a huge challenge if he becomes a restricted free agent on July 1.

While star forwards obviously have seen their entry-level deals expire in the post-lockout era, the big guns like Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin signed deals about a season before their deals would have been up. That’s what makes Steven Stamkos’ situation (and to some extent, Drew Doughty’s as well) so interesting: teams might actually get a chance to send imposing offer sheets his way, ratcheting up the intrigue on the Tampa Bay Lightning’s end. In a way, Stamkos and the Lightning could set a new precedent since their situation is pretty rare.

That being said, Stamkos’ agent and the Lightning will likely look at other star contracts as benchmarks for the budding young star’s second deal. Since Stamkos is rapidly encroaching on their territory already – and each player sports conveniently different contracts – it might make sense to compare his potential deal to the ones enjoyed by Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin.

First, let’s look at each deal.

Crosby’s contract: five years, $43.5 million ($8.7 million annual salary cap hit); contract expires after the 2012-13 season.

Ovechkin’s contract: 13 years, $124 million ($9.54 million annual salary cap hit); contract expires after the 2020-21 season.

From a pure salary cap standpoint, the different between the two deals isn’t that large. That being said, there are some major pros and cons that I believe would make a Crosby-type deal more beneficial to both the Lightning and Stamkos.

Reduced risk for the Lightning

Naturally, imagining 10 years of Stamkos flirting with the 50-goal mark probably seems like a thing of beauty for the Bolts. That being said, injuries are an obvious part of life in the NHL and every once in a while a player just isn’t the same.

It seems like an unsettling point to make, but the Pittsburgh Penguins must feel a little less queasy about Crosby’s cloudy concussion conundrum because he’s only locked up for two more seasons. If Ovechkin was in that situation instead, the Washington Capitals would be facing the frightening possibility of nearly 10 years of uncertainty this summer. Signing players is always a gamble, but longer deals drastically heighten the stakes.

A big unrestricted free agent payday if Stamkos gets even better

While the Lightning reduce their long-term risk, Stamkos can improve his long-term reward. If the league’s salary cap continues its upward climb as Stamkos approaches the unrestricted age of 27, the Lightning star could see an even bigger bump whenever he becomes an unrestricted free agent. He would have less “prime” seasons if he took a 10 or 12-year deal, so his third contract might suffer if he followed Ovechkin’s lead.

A question of motivation

Let me ask you something: if you received a $100 million (or more) contract for a job, would you feel the need to improve? Perhaps, but many people might think that their previous skills – and thus, a few bad habits – opened that door to obscene riches. Why change what made you become a multi-millionaire?

The risk would still be there with a shorter deal, but a 10-year deal almost begs for a few stagnant seasons. Both Ovechkin and Stamkos don’t seem like the types to rest on their laurels, but it’s only natural to lose a bit of steam without that big, dangling carrot of another monster deal.

Splitting the difference?

It’s true that the Bolts might be a bit uncomfortable about him becoming an unrestricted free agent, but that could be remedied slightly if the contract ate up his first unrestricted season or two. If a Crosby-inspired five or six-year deal wouldn’t work, they could always split the difference between the two stars and go for a seven or eight-year pact.

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Ultimately, the Lightning just need to keep Stamkos in the fold. The only true disaster would be losing him outright. Still, if you ask me, both sides would be better off if they followed the footsteps of Crosby and Malkin-type deals rather than agreeing to Ovechkin or Ilya Kovalchuk-type terms.

The Buzzer: Thornton moves up all-time scoring list; Kings snap six-game losing skid

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Players of the Night:

Brian Elliott looked solid in Philadelphia’s overtime win over the Capitals, as he turned aside 27 of 28 shots. This was the first time in eight games that the Flyers netminder allowed fewer than three goals in a game, but he’s still been victorious in three of his last four outings.

• How about that goalie duel between Connor Hellebuyck and Anders Nilsson. The Jets won the game, but both goaltenders were fantastic during this all-Canadian matchup.

• Sticking with the goalie theme, Aaron Dell was fantastic between the pipes for in San Jose’s win against Anaheim. Even when starter Martin Jones comes back from a lower-body injury, Dell should continue to be a factor for the Sharks.

• Sharks forward Mikkel Boedker had a solid night at the office, as he racked up two goals and an assist against the Ducks. That’s impressive considering he only had 12 points on the season coming into tonight’s action.

• The Kings’ power play isn’t a player, but it came to play tonight against the Rangers. Los Angeles got three goals on the man-advantage from Jake Muzzin, Michael Amadio and Tanner Pearson. Those three power play markers helped them snap their six-game losing skid.

Highlights:

Poor Markus Granlund never saw Hellebuyck coming:

That’s a pretty sweet shot from Kevin Labanc:

Here are two pretty sweet backhand passes leading up to Pierre-Edouard Bellemare‘s goal:

Alex Ovechkin scored a power play from his favorite spot on the ice:

Non-called Penalty of the Night:

That’s a pretty dangerous hit by Dmitry Orlov on Claude Giroux. No boarding call?

Factoids:

That’s a lot of power play goals for Ovechkin:

Joe Thornton keeps movin’ on up:

The Rangers have received some balanced scoring this season:

The Golden Knights simply can’t be stopped. What a season they’re having:

Scores:

Flyers 2, Capitals 1 (OT)

Golden Knights 5, Hurricanes 1

Jets 1, Canucks 0

Sharks 6, Ducks 2

Kings 4, Rangers 2

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Fight Video: Kempe comes to Lewis’ defense by dropping gloves with Smith

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It’s not every day that you see Los Angeles Kings forward Adrian Kempe drop the gloves, but he did so against the Rangers tonight.

Things got chippy at the end of the first period between the Rangers and Kings. As both teams were mixing it up, New York’s Brendan Smith shoved Trevor Lewis from behind. Kempe wasn’t impressed with Smith’s move, so he decided to take matters into his own hands.

Here’s Smith’s shove on Lewis:

And this is the fight between Smith and Kempe:

(h/t: hayyyshayyy on Twitter)

As you can tell from the above video, Smith is the more experienced fighter. Also, Kempe has great hair, but it’s clearly not practical when dropping the gloves.

Thanks to Smith, the Kings got a power play to start the second period. Defenseman Jake Muzzin cashed in on the man-advantage to cut Los Angeles’ deficit to 2-1.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Expansion Golden Knights are officially in first place (Update)

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Just like we all predicted in September, the Vegas Golden Knights are sitting in first place in the NHL.

The Golden Knights’ 5-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes allowed them to collect their 65th and 66th points of the season, which moved them one point ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning for top spot in the league (both teams have played 46 games).

PHT’s Adam Gretz wrote a terrific piece about Golden Knights’ amazing first season to date.

It’s only fitting that Vegas got a good amount of production from some of their most pleasant surprises tonight. Jonathan Marchessault, Colin Miller and James Neal also found the back of the net.

As you’d expect, the Golden Knights’ Twitter account is having fun marking this occasion.

“Maybe a little unexpected, right?,” Marc-Andre Fleury said of his team’s success, per NHL.com. “It’s been a lot of fun. We started this team from scratch and chemistry was built very quick between us. Every night, all the guys bring their best effort. I’m proud of our team to be where we’re at right now.”

We’ve had over three months to come to grips with everything the Golden Knights have done, but it’s still amazing to see how some of the players on their roster have produced during Vegas’ inaugural season.

 

43 points in 43 games for Marchessault? 25 goals at the midway point of the season for William Karlsson? Nobody saw those things coming. What makes this even more impressive is that they’ve had to roll four goalies (Fleury, Oscar Dansk, Malcolm Subban and Maxime Lagace).

“Early on in the year, I think we surprised some teams. Now I think every team will get up to play us. It’s just something that will be another test for this group,” Miller told NHL.com.

Now the question is, how far can this pesky expansion team go?

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Struggling Lightning lose Ondrej Palat for indefinite period of time

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The Tampa Bay Lightning have been going through a difficult stretch lately and things got a lot more difficult on Sunday. The team announced that Ondrej Palat is out indefinitely after taking a spear from Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon on Saturday night.

The Bolts, who are on an eight-game road trip, have confirmed that Palat will head back to Tampa on Monday for further testing. He’s accumulated eight goals and 30 points in 46 games this season.

Although the video isn’t the clearest, this is the play that led to the injury:

The injury couldn’t have come at a worse time, as the Lightning have been slumping badly of late. They’ve dropped three games in a row to Calgary, Vegas and Minnesota.

Their once giant lead atop the Atlantic Division has dwindled to three points over the Boston Bruins, who have a game in hand.

“We’re just out of synch, it’s unreal,” head coach Jon Cooper said, per The Tampa Times. “The guys didn’t forget how to play hockey in the last week and a half. We’re just out of synch. One guy zigs, the other guy zags. It’s crazy that in the last week and a half, we kind of lost our swag.”

The Bolts will continue their road trip in Chicago, Nashville and Philadelphia before the All-Star break. On top of their difficult schedule, they’ll also be without number one defenseman Victor Hedman for the next few weeks.

Their spot in the playoffs isn’t in any danger, but the number one seed in the league (Vegas is coming in a hurry) and top spot in the division is in doubt.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.