(Photo via foxsports.com)
With the Feb. 29th NHL trade deadline approaching, a lot of rumors are circling around the minds of all hockey fans. One of the more pressing issues involves NHL all-star center Steven Stamkos and his future with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Both camps have been trying to keep their business dealings private, although Stamkos declined to rule out the possibility of waiving his no trade clause in wake of the deadline. He said, “I haven’t even thought about that. I think the answer is, ‘We’ll cross that bridge at the time, and I don’t think it’s that time now,’” (SportsNet.ca).
This is indeed an interesting aspect of their contract talks. The question will be whether Stamkos gets moved before the deadline, or if the Lightning and Stamkos can reach a long term deal before he hits the open market. There is no question that if Stamkos were to leave and enter free agency, he will become one of the most sought after and most expensive players to ever hit the open market. With the fuzziness surrounding Stamkos’ recent comments, many are beginning to wonder where his allegiance truly lies. He has stated repeatedly that he wants to be a leader for Tampa Bay and bring them to another Stanley Cup, where they can hopefully win it this time. But, perhaps he believes that a long term deal with the Lightning is too challenging for both parties to achieve.
Tampa Bay is currently only a few points behind the top 3 playoff spots in the Atlantic Conference and it seems as if their momentum and flash from last year’s playoff run is dwindling. Should Stamkos really want to press his luck with his current team even though they aren’t as dominant as they were last year in the East?
The best move for Stamkos and the Lightning would be to try to work out a long term extension before the deadline comes. Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman would have to swallow an extremely bitter pill if they were to lose Stamkos after the season for nothing in return. A player of Stamkos’ caliber should be brought back for the sake of the franchise and its fans, but if the price is right. If Stamkos is so keen on wanting to stay in Tampa, he should make sure that money is not a determining factor in his future. With all the other teams drooling at the idea of potentially acquiring this top 10 player in the league, it should be the Lightning’s absolute greatest priority to address. And they need to start thinking fast.
– J. Yellin