Florida finally becoming a destination for success

Ryan Kennedy
Good times in Florida  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

When Teddy Purcell was a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning, he saw a lot of the Florida Panthers. He wasn’t exactly envious. “They had a lot of coaches,” he said. “And it always seemed like the personnel on the ice was changing.”

But that was then. This season, the Panthers have been one of the top teams in the East and a buyer before the trade deadline. One of those acquisitions was Purcell, most recently of the Edmonton Oilers.

What is most promising about the Panthers is that their window appears to just be opening. Sure, the biggest names on the team are veterans such as Jaromir Jagr, Roberto Luongo and Brian Campbell, but the youth contingent led by Aaron Ekblad, Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Nick Bjugstad is just as impressive. And the credit for building this machine goes to Dale Tallon.

Read more

Trade deadline target Eric Staal: “I’ve got to play better than I have”

Eric Staal (left) and Frank Corrado (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

Eric Staal emerged from the Carolina Hurricanes changing area into the dressing room with a scowl on his face. That had a lot to do with the fact that his team had just lost a crucial game to the second-worst team in the league, but also because he knew the questions about his future were coming.

With the trade of Andrew Ladd earlier in the evening, Staal became the marquee player available leading up to Monday’s trade deadline, that is if indeed he’s available. This much we know: Staal has not been asked by Hurricanes GM Ron Francis to waive his no-trade clause of yet and he’s not sure what he would do if he were asked. He’s in the last year of his contract and there has not been a single offer for a contract extension made to him this season, nor has there been a proposal put to the Hurricanes by Staal’s agent Rick Curran.

Read more

With Stamkos staying, Lightning must go for broke at the trade deadline

Matt Larkin
Jonathan Drouin and Steven Stamkos.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

If the Tampa Bay Lightning are all in…they better be all in.

They made a resounding statement Monday when GM Steve Yzerman announced captain Steven Stamkos, hockey’s most talked-about free agent to be, would not be traded before the Feb. 29 deadline. Retaining ‘Stammer’ obviously buys the Bolts more time to negotiate a new long-term contract with their star – and to improve on the lowball offer they reportedly made, which would’ve paid Stamkos $8.5 million annually. To anyone believing Tampa still has a shot to retain him, Monday’s news is reason for hope.

More importantly, though, standing pat on Stamkos gives Tampa the best chance possible to compete for and win the Stanley Cup this June. Whatever great return Stamkos might have netted in a trade, it’s doubtful that package would’ve made the Bolts better in the short term. Stamkos allows the Lightning to be the best Lightning right this second. He’s like an unrestricted free agent rental they just acquired without surrendering assets.

Read more

Aleksander Barkov’s six-year, $35.4-million extension a steal for Panthers

Matt Larkin
Aleksander Barkov (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

With each passing day, the Florida Panthers and GM Dale Tallon look smarter for grabbing Aleksander ‘Sasha’ Barkov second overall at the 2013 draft. Nathan MacKinnon went first, but many draft rankings had Seth Jones and Jonathan Drouin ahead of Barkov. Today, the big Panthers center is a driving force behind their breakout 2015-16, and he’s been rewarded handsomely.

Per Panthers beat writer and THN correspondent George Richards, the Cats have re-signed Barkov, a pending restricted free agent, to a six-year, $35.4-million contract. The deal carries a $5.9-million cap hit. And it sure looks like a coup for Barkov and the Florida organization.

Read more

Kings mortgage future to have Anze Kopitar in the present

Ken Campbell
Anze Kopitar (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)

One of the first things that went through my mind when word surfaced that Anze Kopitar was going to sign an eight-year deal worth $80 million was, are the Los Angeles Kings paying him for what he has already done for them? It’s hard to believe the Kopitar they have for $10 million a year on this deal is going to be as good as the one they had for $3.2 million less on his current contract.

Analytics tells us that Kopitar will decline, probably badly, toward the end of this deal. He likely has had his best years already, although with four goals and 18 points in his past 11 games, Kopitar will have one of the best offensive seasons of his career if he keeps scoring the rest of the season. And his defensive game has never faltered.

Read more

Cast of thousands for Steven Stamkos Show did not include Yzerman

Ken Campbell
Steven Stamkos (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

If the stars align and Steven Stamkos does end up with the Toronto Maple Leafs next season, he’s going to need every penny of his enormous salary just to cover tickets for family and friends. Those things don’t come cheaply, in case you haven’t heard, and there’s likely to be a hike in ticket prices if Stamkos does ride in to save the franchise.

To say that Stamkos had an enormous entourage when the Lightning visited the Maple Leafs Tuesday night would be a huge understatement. Just from Newport Sports alone, which represents Stamkos in the completely non-existent talks that are going on with the Lightning on a new deal were his primary agent Don Meehan, as well as Newport agents Pat Morris, Mark Guy, Wade Arnott, Rand Simon, Josh Epstein and Sarah Stamkos, who works in Newport’s marketing department. (Sara Stamkos’ boyfriend was also there.) Of course, Stamkos’s parents Chris and Lesley, along with his skill coach Jari Byrski and Byrski’s girlfriend.

Read more

Something’s not quite right between Lightning and Steven Stamkos – and now is the time to address it

Ken Campbell
Steven Stamkos  (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

Perhaps Steven Stamkos has a propensity for “pocket Tweeting,” or maybe he’s just trying to nudge his contract negotiations with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Or perhaps he’s just having us all on and sitting back laughing at the fact that every move he makes causes the hockey world to lose its collective mind.

But the fact is, something seems not quite right between Stamkos and his employer at the moment. And that’s why when Stamkos, apparently inadvertently hits “like” to a tweet from TSN that highlights a video of a panel talking about whether the Toronto Maple Leafs should take a run at acquiring him, it sets the hockey world abuzz. People trying to find some grain of truth in a Twitter “like” are going to come to certain conclusions.

Read more