Steven Stamkos is an unrestricted free agent in 2016, but there’s little doubt Tampa Bay wants to make sure he doesn’t hit the free agent market. If they don’t reach a contract this summer, though, it could fire up the rumor mill. Meanwhile, Cam Talbot and Patrik Elias could be finding new homes next season.
For several weeks during the summer of 2011, Steven Stamkos' contract negotiations with the Tampa Bay Lightning were a dominant topic among NHL followers. With the 25-year-old Stamkos eligible for unrestricted free agency in July 2016, he could become a fixture in this summer's rumor mill.
The Tampa Tribune's Erik Erlendsson reports the Lightning can open negotiations with Stamkos on July 1. If the Bolts don't have their captain under contract in early-July, speculation will begin over his future in Tampa Bay. Erlendsson believes most of it will emanate from Toronto, as Stamkos is a Markham, Ont. native.
Stamkos has repeatedly said his intent is to re-sign with the Lightning. They're a legitimate Stanley Cup contender in a warm-weather climate lacking the intense media coverage of teams in traditional hockey markets.
Despite those enticing factors, re-signing Stamkos will be expensive. As one of the NHL's top stars, he could command a deal similar to the eight-year, $84 million deals Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane inked last summer with the Chicago Blackhawks. If the Lightning cannot afford his asking price, the deep-pocketed (and desperate) Leafs will have no difficulty doing so.
Given Stamkos' value to the Lightning, it's unlikely he'll reach unrestricted free agency in 2016. Still, if negotiations drag on throughout this off-season, it could spark an increase in media speculation over his future.
ELIAS ENDING CAREER OUTSIDE NEW JERSEY?
NJ.com's Rich Chere reports veteran forward Patrik Elias' role with the New Jersey Devils could be changing. After spending years as a top-six forward, the 38-year-old Elias finds himself centering the Devils' third line between Dainius Zubrus and Stephen Gionta.
While no longer the high-scoring winger he once was, Elias attributes his current offensive decline to the club's lack of scoring depth. It's a valid point, as last season he tallied 53 points in 65 games. Elias also said he's not interested in dropping into a fourth-line role and intends to discuss the situation with management after this season.
Elias carries a full no-trade clause, but hinted he could be willing to waive it if the club no longer wants him. The long-time Devils star has a year remaining on his contract at a cap hit of $5.5 million. Despite his age and salary, Elias still has a solid reputation as an effective scoring forward. If he and the Devils decide to part ways this summer, there will be interest in him.
TALBOT SOUGHT AFTER NET OPTION
New York Rangers backup Cam Talbot is doing a magnificent job filling in for sidelined starter Henrik Lundqvist. Entering Saturday's matchup with the Buffalo Sabres, the 27-year-old Talbot has backstopped the Rangers to a 12-2-3 record since Feb. 4. They're now challenging for first in the league's overall standings.
Despite Talbot's impressive performance, he'll have to revert to backing up Lundqvist when the veteran netminder makes his inevitable return later this month. With “King Henrik” entrenched as the Rangers' starting goalie, Talbot's future could lie beyond New York after this season.
The New York Post's Larry Brooks notes Talbot is eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2016. He also suggests the netminder could depart this summer via trade, depending upon interest around the league.
Given Talbot's success this season, several teams seeking goaltending depth this summer are likely to inquire about his availability. The Buffalo Sabres, Edmonton Oilers, Dallas Stars and Toronto Maple Leafs could be among the suitors.
Talbot's contract for 2015-16 (one year, $1.45 million) will also be attractive. So too could the Rangers' asking price. With over $60 million invested in 14 players for 2015-16 and several key players (Derek Stepan, Martin St. Louis, Carl Hagelin) to re-sign or replace, the Blueshirts are pressed for cap space. They could be forced to make a salary-dumping deal or two, which could mean shipping out Talbot for a draft pick, prospect or affordable young player.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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