For at least the next two nights, the hockey rumor mill will crank out ridiculous ideas about who might target pending restricted free agent star Steven Stamkos. Some people will also find convoluted ways to argue that Stamkos dislikes being a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning; others simply will find ways to think up wacky offers that GM Steve Yzerman cannot stomach.
That being said, it seems like any rumor is semi-reasonable about at least one team: the Philadelphia Flyers. GM Paul Holmgren stunned the hockey world by trading two of their best players (and nicest salary cap bargains) in Mike Richards and Jeff Carter last week, leaving many to wonder if there are any boundaries to the team’s strange dealings.
With that in mind, it seems necessary to at least ponder the far-fetched (let’s repeat that: far-fetched) notion of the Flyers throwing an expensive offer sheet at Stamkos. CSNPhilly.com’s Tim Panaccio took the temperature of the team’s brass on that high-risk, high-reward subject in this story.
“A lot of indecision within a very decisive group, which isn’t like the Flyers,” said a source with knowledge of the talks.
The Flyers can’t decide among themselves whether it’s in their best interests to make an offer.
While the aggressive (and occasionally illogical) Flyers front office struggles with the pros and cons of making such a decision, they might want to ask themselves an important question: how much do they really want to waste their own time?
Look, if the last week or so taught us anything, it’s that desperate teams will do some crazy things if they think it will improve their chances. That being said, Yzerman must be aware of how damaging it would be to lose a star of the present and future like Steven Stamkos. If Stamkos isn’t a once-in-a-generation player, he’s at least likely to earn Hall of Fame consideration whenever he retires.
Maybe a team will mess up the Lightning’s collective balance by sending a maximum salary-type offer sheet Stamkos’ way, but Panaccio does a good job in capturing how unlikely it would be for any other squad to snatch Stamkos away.
“Whoever does this, Tampa has to match,” said the source. “It’s a bad position, but you have no choice. If you don’t sign this player in that market, you are guaranteeing yourself you have no upside with your fans. Yzerman knows that.”
So do the Flyers and the rest of the NHL.
“I cannot believe Philly is seriously considering an offer sheet,” said one prominent person familiar with the talks. “[Owner Jeff] Vinik is a billionaire. Tampa will match any amount. It’s an exercise in futility.”
That’s the key phrase: “exercise in futility.” Since the Lightning will probably match any offer sent Stamkos’ way, there’s really only one motive in sending an offer sheet: to hurt Tampa Bay’s depth. Perhaps a gargantuan Stamkos deal might cause the team to part ways with Vincent Lecavalier after they resisted moving him (and his bloated contract) for all this time. Maybe keeping Stamkos means parting with some combination of Sean Bergenheim, Teddy Purcell and/or Simon Gagne.
But let’s be clear about this: a 2011-12 Lightning team without Stamkos is almost unfathomable. Give the possibility a 1 percent chance. Then again, as the Flyers and Florida Panthers showed us during the last week, the implausible can become possible in the NHL.
(Don’t bet on it happening in this case, though.)