If there were any lingering hopes of Steve Stamkos getting moved at the trade deadline, Bolts GM Steve Yzerman snuffed them out in dramatic fashion on Monday, by releasing the following statement:
“As February 29th approaches, I am stating today that Steven Stamkos will not be traded before the NHL’s trade deadline.
“I have said repeatedly that it is our hope to reach an agreement with Steven on a new contract at some point, and with 27 games remaining in the season, our entire organization, Steven included, wants to focus on making the playoffs.
“I will keep the negotiating process strictly between the involved parties and have no further comment on the state of those negotiations.”
Yzerman’s statement comes on the same day that Lightning founder and current VP of corporate relations Phil Esposito told a local radio station “I don’t think [Stamoks] is going anywhere.”
While the statement is bold, it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. The Lightning are in win-now mode and their Stanley Cup window is much more open with Stamkos in the mix, than with him playing elsewhere.
So with that, the focus in Tampa now goes from the Stamkos Trade Watch to the Stamkos Extension Watch.
Reports from Sportsnet and the Tampa Tribune suggested the opening offers hovered around eight years at $8.5 million per season — for a $68M deal overall — but the focus won’t necessarily be on the Lightning’s offer.
It’ll be on what Stamkos could get in free agency.
By going to market, he’d be the biggest prize since Zach Parise and Ryan Suter landed in Minnesota four years ago, with matching $98 million deals. If Stamkos wants to join Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews as the NHL’s lone $10M cap hits, it’s very likely he’d get it in free agency — not in Tampa, where Yzerman must keep the finances in check to ensure he can address other pressing free agents on the horizon, like Victor Hedman and Ben Bishop (UFAs) and Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson (all up in 2018).