The Canucks don’t really have a shot at Steven Stamkos, do they? They might.
The Tampa Lightning superstar centre is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Obviously the Lightning would like to re-sign him before then, but it appears that Stamkos might be unhappy in the Sunshine State.
Asked this week by TSN’s Frank Seravalli if he would be willing to waive his no-trade clause, here’s what Stamkos had to say:
“I think the answer is we’ll cross that bridge at the time. I don’t think it’s that time right [now]. So, I continue to come to the rink every day as the leader that I am and the teammate that everyone in this room knows that I am, and give my best effort. I’ve said that since Day 1 of training camp and that hasn’t changed.”
The answer you were looking for if you’re a Lightning fan is “no”.
So we can surmise that there’s a reasonably good chance that Stamkos wants to leave Tampa Bay, whether that’s at the deadline or as a UFA on July 1. The next question is: where does he want to go?
NHL players that have spent a long time in non-traditional hockey markets often look forward to moving to a hockey hotbed. The same is true for players that have spent a long time getting scrutinized in Canada often look forward to moving to the south where they can be more anonymous.
Perhaps Stamkos is ready for a brighter spotlight.
Stamkos will command a massive raise from the $7.5M he makes right now. Given his age (26), what he has accomplished in his career, and his still untapped potential, he may be the most coveted UFA in the history of the National Hockey League.
So this move will take cap space. And guess who has cap space next year!
The Canucks are right near the cap right now, but they are set to have Radim Vrbata ($5M), Dan Hamhuis ($4.5M), and Brandon Prust ($2.5M) come off the books. They can move some other money out as well, of course, by buying out Chris Higgins ($2.5M).
— Chris Nichols (@NicholsOnHockey) January 19, 2016
LeBrun: "It would not surprise me, if Stamkos went to July 1, if Vancouver was a team that made an offer, for example." #Canucks
— Chris Nichols (@NicholsOnHockey) February 11, 2016
Rumours have been persisting for a while now that the Canucks plan on throwing a lot of money at Stamkos in the summer, but I never took it seriously.
That’s because you know who else has cap space? His hometown team, the Toronto Maple Leafs.
If he wants to come to a non-playoff team in a hockey hotbed, surely he would choose Toronto, right? I mean, that’s the biggest market and they do losing better than Vancouver.
Well, maybe not.
— Chris Nichols (@NicholsOnHockey) February 9, 2016
News from hockey insiders seem to suggest that Stamkos might not want to go to Toronto.
Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star dropped this nugget yesterday:
Arthur on 1050 yesterday: "I heard recently he (Stamkos) was more interested in Vancouver than Toronto, but it changes everyday." #Canucks
— Grady Sas (@GradySas) February 12, 2016
The Leafs and Canucks are by no means the only teams interested in Stamkos. Any team with cap space will want him desperately, so we need to keep that in mind.
Still, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. And right now there’s a whole lot of smoke around the linkage of Stamkos and the Vancouver Canucks. When the likes of Elliotte Friedman and Pierre LeBrun are mentioning Stamkos and Vancouver in the same sentence, that should cause you to take notice.
If the Canucks make the best offer, and they appear ready to do just that, they could land him. Stamkos will get offers to play for better teams, but perhaps not one that offers a city like Vancouver and a passionate fanbase.
I’m not saying it’s going to happen, but it’s possible.
Acquiring Stamkos would be a game-changer for the franchise. A player like Stamkos comes available about once every ten years, and the chance to get him without giving up draft picks or players would mean the world to the Canucks.
Landing Stamkos would leave the Canucks with an overload of centres, with Henrik Sedin, Bo Horvat, Jared McCann, and Brandon Sutter still in the stable. They could move McCann for a good haul, perhaps for a good young defenceman that they desperately need.
Stamkos wouldn’t make the Canucks Cup contenders immediately, but he would set them up well for the next 10 years. He would also ensure a window of opportunity for the Sedins to win a Stanley Cup before they retire.
Imagine a Canucks power play next year with Henrik Sedin feeding Steven Stamkos one-timers. Dare to dream, Canucks fans.