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Where will Stamkos end up?

We all know that Tampa won’t be the team that gives Stamkos $10 Million per year. They simply just can’t afford to. Will we see Steven Stamkos wearing different colours next season, or even this season? Personally I think that the Tampa Bay Lightning and Steve Yzerman will try their best, but money talks. There was a rumor that the Lightning had offered to pay him $8.5 million per year, which isn’t nearly enough for a superstar player like Steven Stamkos. If they can’t get him signed to a deal they would be better off moving him at the deadline and at least get a good return, rather than losing him to free agency.

This negotiation that the Tampa Bay Lightning have on their hands is probably one of the most delicate and important in the franchise’s history.

As pretty much everyone knows, Lightning captain Steven Stamkos is on the last year of his current contract. He will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 if the Lightning can’t work out a deal with their top forward. On the open market, Stamkos stands to make a killing as a (soon-to-be) 26-year-old with (by then) 300-plus goals in his career already. That threat of free agency only drives his price up.

However, the Lighting have to start somewhere. According to Elliotte Friedman on Hockey Night in Canada Saturday night, it is believed that the starting point is $8.5 million for the annual average on the salary. If the Lightning give Stamkos a max eight-year extension, like everyone assumes they would, it would be $68 million over the life of the contract.

That offer would make it a raise on Stamkos’ current cap hit by $1 million. It would also take Stamkos from the 20th highest cap hit in the league to tied with Henrik Lundqvist for eighth. However, given the most recent re-signings of top players, it’s low in comparison.

The three contracts that agent Don Meehan and his partners at Newport Sports have to have their eyes on are those given to Chicago Blackhawks stars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews and Los Angeles Kings top forward Anze Kopitar. Kane and Toews got matching eight-year deals with $10.5 million annual cap hits. Those deals just kicked in this season. Kopitar recently signed a new contract with the Kings for eight years at an annual cap hit of $10 million.

There’s little doubt Stamkos would receive that kind of offer on the open market. A certain hockey team in Toronto probably wouldn’t blink at that kind of figure. But the Lightning have a litany of other issues to think about with this next deal for their star forward.

There’s Nikita Kucherov, who is currently outscoring Stamkos this season, who will be a restricted free agent this summer. He’s going to need a big raise. Top defenseman Victor Hedman will need a new contract and a gigantic raise after the 2016-17 season to avoid unrestricted free agency. Meanwhile, Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson will also be due raises after becoming restricted free agents following the 2016-17 campaign. Then they have to decide what to do about goalie Ben Bishop, whose contract expires around that time as well, but that could be mitigated if Andrei Vasilevskiy plays well enough to make Bishop expendable. On top of all this, the team has to try and figure out a trade with a player that was expected to eventually join the core in the now-suspended Jonathan Drouin. There’s a lot on Yzerman’s plate now and in the not-so-distant future.

The Lightning may have to sell Stamkos on taking a hometown discount in order to keep the core group together. They have a team that is set up to be a Stanley Cup contender now and a few years into the future if they can keep that core group together. Stamkos can argue that he should be the centerpiece of that core, though, and deserves to be paid as such. He can also point to Chicago’s ability to pay Kane and Toews what they’re worth and still manage to keep their roster competitive. Hedman could make a similar case when it’s time to negotiate his new deal, too.

So it’s going to be an expensive few years. That tells you everything you need to know about the initial offer to Stamkos. It’s not totally a low-ball, because they’d put him in the top 10 in salary in the league, but it’s not on trend with star players commanding a healthy portion of the salary cap.

With the failing Canadian dollar, teams shouldn’t anticipate a much higher salary cap next year, but that’s not going to change the asking price for top players. The bar has been set. That’s why this negotiation seems like it’s going to take a while. The longer it takes, though, the more concern there will be that it can’t get done.

It seems like all parties in question want to make this work. That doesn’t make it any easier.

Steven Stamkos was reportedly offered an eight-year, $68 million deal. (USATSI)

Source: CBS Sports.

Coleton MacDonald
The Founder of Weliveforhockey.com

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