Photo Courtesy of Staff Photographer Wayne Masut
A lot has been made about Steven Stamkos and his current contract situation. Fans don’t want to see one of the top scorers this team has ever seen go elsewhere. Others think he should be traded before the trade deadline at the end of the month so if he is going someplace else at least this way the Lightning get something for him as opposed to him leaving via free agency and getting nothing.
Sure Stamkos has been a great leader and goal scorer for this team during his tenure here. Following his rookie season, he’s won two Rocket Richard trophies for being the leading goal scorer in the league. In the three seasons following his rookie campaign he went over 90 points all three seasons then came the lockout shortened season in 2012 in which he still had 57 points in 48 games. In November of 2013 Stamkos would break his tibia in a game against the Boston Bruins. This injury would shorten Stamkos’ season to a mere 37 games while still managing to get at least 40 points. Last season he had 43 goals to go with 29 assists for 72 points, but one could say the injury the year before took something from Stamkos. Since his best season in 2011-2012 he’s lost winger Martin St Louis who wanted out of town and has went through two different style coaches in Guy Boucher and Jon Cooper. Add to the fact that he hasn’t really hasn’t had consistent line mates to gel with has caused him to start to digress slightly. Make no mistake the guy is still a scoring threat when he gets the puck, but more often than not this season there have been games where he never registered a shot on goal. Let’s not forget with his current contract situation he could be commanding a deal worth nine to ten million a year from the Lightning, when during the last few years I don’t think he deserves that much a year going forward.
If the Lightning were to trade Stamkos before the trade deadline they could potentially get a king’s ransom for him while at the same time having money to keep other players on the team who could help the Lightning for years to come, but I am not saying that Stamkos couldn’t it would just be tougher to keep key pieces with the organization long term. Now currently the Lightning do have some less than desirable contracts on the books including Matt Carle’s five and a half million a year for a player who has been scratched god knows how many times so far this season. Add to that Valterri Filppula’s five million a year and there is two players who are getting paid well over what they are producing on the ice. The problem is this is the NHL not the NFL and contracts in the NHL are guaranteed compared to the NHL where you could possibly renegotiate a contract.
In the coming offseason a few players will be coming up for new contracts including Alex Killorn, Vladislav Namestnikov, Jonathan Marchessault and Nikita Kucherov. With Carle and Filppula’s hefty contracts already on the books for the next few seasons adding another nine to ten million to a cap that potentially could go down next season will put the Lightning in a real bind this offseason. Let’s not forget Victor Hedman will be due a new contract following next season and will command a hefty raise over his current four million a year. Dare we not forget the same offseason where Hedman will become an unrestricted free agent so will goaltender Ben Bishop. Now you see where the problem lies don’t you?
Replacing a player like Steven Stamkos could be pretty tough, but not impossible based on his last few seasons production. Maybe even Kucherov could be a guy who will command much less but could produce similar number to what Stamkos has the last few seasons.
I feel the money we could give to Stamkos could go to keeping Hedman and Bishop at minimum. In this day and age, you can replace a scoring forward somewhat easily, but replacing an elite defenseman and goaltender is a lot more difficult. This league has so few elite goalies let alone elite defenseman that when your team gets one you hold onto them with everything you can. Now don’t get me wrong Andrei Vasilevskiy could grow into an amazing number one goalie in this league, but right now we already have one who has broken almost every franchise goalie record this team had.
So you see yes the Lightning MAY lose Steven Stamkos and it may be sooner than anyone expects, but this is a franchise that can and will overcome that loss. Kucherov is only making a little over seven hundred thousand this season and he will be a restricted free agent just like Namestnikov. Marchessault and Killorn, but Kucherov won’t command nearly what Stamkos will and they are producing nearly the exact numbers this season. While Kucherov hasn’t completely established himself in back to back seasons as a premiere goal scorer in the NHL he is on his way to having a career year.
In closing I am going to say something that may make a lot of people none too happy with me, but I’m going to say let’s let Stamkos go either via free agency or trade and try and keep the good young core of this team together. The Lightning have a bright future and it will take time to overcome the loss of their Captain, but if any team can do it The Tampa Bay Lightning can.
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