Let’s say you’re Steven Stamkos and you’ve decided that you want to play for another team next year.
We’re just supposing here, OK? Nobody’s saying he definitely won’t re-sign with the Lightning. But let’s say you’re him and you’ve decided to move on. Just for fun. You only live once.
Is there any reason you’d first agree to sign an extension so that the Lightning had a more valuable trade chip to play?
Because we can’t think of a great one. Maybe out of a sense of obligation to the Lightning? You’d feel bad, basically. You’d want to throw them a bone as you walked out the door.
Of course, the “feel bad” reason isn’t a great one, because you’d only be hurting the team you wanted to join. Let’s say that team was the Toronto Maple Leafs. Again, just for fun. Why force them into giving up a bunch of assets in a trade when you could just join them by signing on the dotted line this summer? You’re gonna get paid regardless, and you’re gonna get paid a lot.
That was the gist of yesterday’s story in the Globe and Mail:
[Stamkos] has a full no-movement clause in the final year of his contract, meaning the Lightning may not even be able to deal him as a rental player late in the year.
It is widely believed that Yzerman already investigated trading Stamkos before the no-movement clause kicked in. Prior to the draft, the Lightning were in discussions with the Buffalo Sabres about a potential deal for the second-overall pick, which they eventually used to take Jack Eichel.
Depending on who you believe – and we’re dealing with a rumour mill gone absolutely wild right now – those discussions were either very preliminary or somewhat advanced.
Those who argue they were advanced say that it was Stamkos who nixed the deal, because one condition the Sabres put on the blockbuster trade was that they had to be able to sign him to an extension.
Now, as the Globe later notes, there’s always the possibility that Stamkos could accept a trade at the deadline as a pure rental, then sign with whichever team he wants on July 1. And wouldn’t that be something, Stamkos going to a contender as a rental. (Rangers, Canadiens, and Predators fans just perked up a bit.)
There’s also the very real possibility that we’re not creative enough to come up with a way for the Lightning to turn Stamkos into more than a rental. Perhaps Yzerman has a brilliant Plan B up his sleeve.
But the longer Stamkos remains unsigned, the more we start to wonder about these things.
Suffice to say, Yzerman will not look good if he loses his young superstar captain for nothing.