With his contract set to expire in the summer of 2016, Steven Stamkos will have double-digit offers on the table from around the league. What will the Lightning have to do to keep No. 91 in Tampa Bay?
NBA superstar LeBron James returning home to Cleveland sparked speculation this summer in the Toronto media suggesting Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos could do the same and sign with the Maple Leafs as a free agent in 2016.
The Leafs lack a homegrown star, and Stamkos would be a natural fit. Responding to questions about the possibility, the 24-year-old sniper inadvertently added fuel to the fire by replying, “We'll see what happens.” However, Stamkos recently clarified his comments, saying he definitely wants to win with the Lightning.
During the Lightning's recent annual Fan Fest, team owner Jeff Vinik told fans he will leave contract negotiations in the hands of GM Steve Yzerman, but made it clear he envisions a long-term future for Stamkos in Tampa Bay.
The earliest the Lightning can open contract talks with Stamkos is July 1, when he'll be one year away from unrestricted free agency. With Chicago Blackhawks superstars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane recently signing identical eight-year, $84-million contracts (worth a league-high annual cap hit of $10.5 million), it could cost the Lightning as much, if not more, to keep Stamkos in Tampa Bay beyond 2016.
Another factor will be the Lightning's performance over the next two seasons. Should they build upon their promising 2013-14 campaign, it could prove a strong incentive for Stamkos to stay put.
RFA CONTRACTS AND JOHANSEN IMPLICATIONS
Two restricted free agents recently ended their contract standoffs. Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis signed a five-year, $12.5-million contract, while left winger Jaden Schwartz signed a two-year, $4.7-million deal with the St. Louis Blues.
With Boston's Torey Krug and Reilly Smith freshly signed, that leaves Columbus' Ryan Johansen, along with Dallas' Cody Eakin and Brenden Dillon still holding out for deals. Mike Heika of The Dallas Morning News reports their absence could be offset in the short term by the Stars' depth in young players.
Johansen's negotiations with the Blue Jackets remain at a standoff. The Columbus Dispatch's Aaron Portzline reports Johansen's agent won't be moved by Schwartz's new deal with the Blues, citing his client's potential and place on the roster.
SEKAC A CATCH; MOEN ON THE BLOCK
The Boston Globe's Fluto Shinzawa reports the Canadiens are pleased with the preseason play of winger Jiri Sekac, who was signed this summer to a two-year entry-level contract. Shinzawa believes Sekac's play could put winger Travis Moen's job in jeopardy.
Though Moen is an experienced checking-line forward and dressing room leader, the 32-year-old seems to have lost a step and only dressed in four playoff games last season.
SI.com's Allan Muir recently claimed the Canadiens hope to trade Moen, but his contract ($1.85 million per season through 2016) is expensive for a fourth-liner and could be tough to move.
The Habs could offer to pick up part of Moen's salary to improve his trade value. They could also attempt a dollar-for-dollar swap with another club, though that would mean adding another player they don't need.
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 Bleacher Report, Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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