Steven Stamkos. (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)
If Steve Stamkos is unwilling to re-sign there is speculation GM Steve Yzerman could ask Stamkos, who carries a full no-movement clause this season, for a list of destinations before the Feb. 29 trade deadline.
Steven Stamkos' future with the Tampa Bay Lightning remains the hot topic in the NHL rumor mill. With the new year fast approaching, there's no indication the 25-year-old center (a pending UFA in July) is any closer to a new contract. The Lightning are in Toronto on Tuesday to face the Maple Leafs, ensuring media speculation regarding his contract status will reach a fever pitch.
If Stamkos is unwilling to re-sign, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman believes GM Steve Yzerman could ask Stamkos, who carries a full no-movement clause this season, for a list of destinations before the Feb. 29 trade deadline. The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch shares that opinion. He cites a recent report out of Tampa Bay claiming fans are on edge over the uncertainty of this situation.
Garrioch and The Globe and Mail's James Mirtle note there was speculation last June claiming Yzerman listened to a couple of trade offers for Stamkos. Both also point out there's growing media speculation suggesting Stamkos doesn't see eye-to-eye with recently re-signed head coach Jon Cooper.
Perhaps to head off the inevitable trade queries from the Toronto media, Yzerman told Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times he doesn't intend to make any blockbuster moves this season. “We'd like to keep everybody if we possibly can,” said Yzerman.
The health of center Tyler Johnson could also be a factor. Since mid-November, Johnson's missed seven games to injury. He's not expected to be in the lineup for the remainder of their road trip, which finishes on Dec. 18 in Washington.
If Johnson and his fellow Triplet linemates (Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov) were enjoying the same level of success as last season, perhaps Yzerman could find it easier to put Stamkos on the trade block. With the Lightning currently struggling to score and battling for a wild-card berth, Stamkos remains valuable to their playoff hopes.
NBC Sports' Mike Halford reports the Florida Panthers remain in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race, but they're also in the bottom third offensively this season. Halford notes Panthers GM Dale Tallon recently told an interviewer bolstering his offense is a priority.
Given the current stagnation in the trade market, Tallon's unlikely to find a scorer before the upcoming Dec. 19-27 holiday trade freeze. He could end up waiting until later in the new year, perhaps closer to the trade deadline.
Halford speculates Tallon could make a pitch for Vancouver Canucks right wing Radim Vrbata, citing their previous ties with the Chicago Blackhawks. Eligible next summer for UFA status, the 34-year-old Vrbata could be available if the Canucks are out of playoff contention by late-February.
If the Winnipeg Jets fail to re-sign pending UFA defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, the Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson suggests Tallon could be interested. Like Vrbata, Byfuglien also played for Tallon during his days as Blackhawks GM.
The Panthers, however, are loaded with blueline depth. Unless Tallon's intention is to employ Byfuglien as a winger, it makes little sense to pursue the big Jets defenseman this season. Perhaps that move happens next summer, particularly if Tallon decides not to re-sign veteran rearguard Brian Campbell.
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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