There have been rumors over the last week that the Philadelphia Flyers were going to extend an offer sheet to Tampa Bay Lightning restricted free agent Steven Stamkos on July 1. A day before free agency opens, the rampant rumors can finally be put to bed once and for all. After three days of intense discussions within the organization, the Flyers will not submit an offer sheet for Stamkos.
Not that there’s been any confusion on the matter over the last few days.
Flyers’ GM Paul Holmgren told CSN Philly’s Tim Panaccio that the organization strongly considered the Stamkos option, but they have chosen to go in a different direction:
“We’re not going to do anything on it. We explored it and decided it’s not the way for us to go at this time.
“We’re excited about the additions we made and the direction we’re going right now. We’ll explore things tomorrow [when free agency begins] but a restricted free agency offer sheet is not the way we will go.”
People can make the argument that the real story is that the Flyers were so strongly considering the offer sheet to begin with. Sure, the organization has a reputation for throwing away first round draft picks like they were confetti, but there would have been plenty more to signing Stamkos this summer. Obviously, the first cost for Philadelphia would have been their next four first round draft picks if they were acquire the 21-year-old Ontario native. But as Holmgren intimated in his comments, the Flyers would probably have to move two more players to clear out enough cap space for Stamkos. Considering they’ve already moved would-be franchise centers Mike Richards and Jeff Carter over the last week—and want to re-sign Ville Leino for next season—there would be a lot of moving parts for one player.
Not to mention the fact that Tampa Bay already announced they’d match any offer sheet.
Since the lockout, extending an offer sheet to a restricted free agent has been breaking an unwritten rule. Kevin Lowe was criticized when he went after Thomas Vanek and then-Ducks GM Brian Burke hammered him when he signed Dustin Penner to an offer sheet. Sharks GM made great use of offer sheets a year ago when he put the Chicago Blackhawks in a situation where they choose between Niklas Hjalmarsson and Antti Niemi. GMs have always been free to use offer sheets; but they understood that they used them at their own peril.
If any player were worth an offer sheet, Steven Stamkos is certainly in the running. The former #1 overall pick in 2008 was 2nd in the league last year with 45 goals and 5th in the league with 91 points. In 2009-10, he won the Maurice Richard Trophy by leading the league with 51 goals. No one in the league can match his 96 goals over the last two years—and he just barely hit the legal drinking age in February.
The Flyers can now turn their attention to other pressing matters. Since they are not going after Stamkos, there are already rumblings that they could make a play for Brad Richards when free agency opens at 12:00 ET on Friday. They still want to lock-up Ville Leino to an extension and need to come to terms with two new restricted free agents of their own in Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek. No doubt there’s still plenty to do in Philly to keep GM Paul Holmgren busy.
For the Lightning, they’ll continue to negotiate with Stamkos and his agent until a deal is reached. According to Damian Cristodero at the St. Pete Times, the two sides have already met today and plan on meeting again tonight. Once the two sides agree on fair compensation for an NHL superstar coming off of his entry-level deal, GM Steve Yzerman will be able to turn his attention to the rest of his team that was only 1 goal away from the Stanley Cup Final.
Keeping Stamkos around is obviously the first step to getting back.