In a reality without a salary cap, it would be quicker to note who isn’t interested in Steven Stamkos than who is.
Budgets thin the real-world list out considerably, but more than that, there’s also the notion of where the current captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning would actually go.
Still, we’re now in the tamper-free zone for Stamkos, so expect a wide variety of pitches that range from reasonable to remote.
One interesting team surfacing is the Buffalo Sabres. GM Tim Murray provided an interesting take on trying to land Stamkos, the “big fish,” to reporters on Saturday.
(Geography meaning that Buffalo is awfully close to Toronto, in case Stamkos wants to be relatively close to home but maybe would rather not be a member of the Maple Leafs.)
And, hey, Stamkos wouldn’t need to worry about that pesky practice of playing on the wing:
ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun lays out a few frontrunners, even if the Detroit Red Wings are being more coy than others.
Nevertheless, it’s absolutely 100 percent guaranteed that the Red Wings will make an offer to Stamkos. The Vancouver Canucks and, of course, his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs are among the other potential suitors, and some other teams might surprise.
Maybe throw the headline-seeking New York Rangers into the mix while you’re at it:
Many, including TSN’s Bob McKenzie, indicate Stamkos would prefer to stay with the Tampa Bay Lightning if all things are equal … but other teams may be able to offer financial and geographic incentives.
It wouldn’t be surprising if some teams hint at interest merely to save face.
Long story short, expect plenty of speculation heading into free agency on July 1.
For all we know, someone may indeed make such a strong pitch that the Lightning might facilitate a sign-and-trade.