Steven Stamkos: The Player to Build A Franchise Around

tampa bay lightning trade rumors

During last weekend’s festivities at the NHL All Star Game, Tampa Bay Lightning star Steven Stamkos openly said he wants to remain in Tampa Bay for a long time, and who can blame him? The question is, are the Lightning willing to pay him a large sum for his services before his contract year expires?

As it is slated now, Stamkos will be an unrestricted free agent during the summer of 2016, and a prized one at that. However, Stamkos wants to have a new deal done by this summer of 2015, a year before his current contract expires, that will allow him to remain in Tampa Bay for many years.

The Lightning would be foolish to let a player the likes of Stamkos to walk away during free agency, as he is the player that is the current face of the franchise.

This in turn beckons another question. Is Steven Stamkos one of the faces of the NHL? Why doesn’t the NHL market Stamkos as one of the games premier talents like they do with player such as Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, and Jonathan Toews? For these players, they play in hockey rich environments and need no further promoting by the NHL. Florida in general is still a vastly untapped market for the NHL despite two teams calling the Sunshine State home, but Stamkos still is viewed as someone with a low national profile.

But what gives? Stamkos has been a firecracker ever since being drafted first overall in 2008 and is a two time Maurice Richard Trophy winner. He has yet to garner any postseason accolades or other individual awards such as a Hart Trophy. He didn’t even win the Calder Trophy in his first year. Yet critics need to remember one thing: he is only 24 years old. Despite these facts, he is still one of the more exciting players to watch on the ice, and is a main catalyst for the growth of the sport in Florida.

One only needs to look at the recent history of the Lightning to see how a star player can fly under the radar for simply being in an unsupportive hockey market. When players like Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis called Tampa Bay home, they weren’t seen as perennial spotlight players in the NHL. Ditto for Dan Boyle, who many remember today as only a member of the San Jose Sharks, despite winning a Cup with Tampa Bay in 2004, as did Lecavalier and St. Louis.

Now, Stamkos can only better his reputation and player spotlight by keeping on performing the way he does. Playoff performances can go a long way, but Stamkos has only been a part of postseason action twice in his first six seasons so who can really blame him for that? One of those years, 2011, the Lightning made it to the Conference Finals before being defeated in seven games by eventual Cup Champs the Boston Bruins.

The willingness of Stamkos to want to stay in Tampa and help transform the team into a perennial playoff performer is something team management should relish at. Add to the fact that Stamkos is the “old fart” at 24 years old makes the future quite bright for the Bolts.

Looking at Stamkos and his current contract can lead many to feel that he will certainly get a bump in pay come time to sign an extension or new contract. In 2011, he signed a five-year, $37.5 million contract. If Stamkos had a willingness to stay around for five years, it shouldn’t be news that he would be willing to stick around for a few more, or many, in his case.

The Capitals were willing to shell out $124 million over 13 years for Alex Ovechkin, the Penguins emptied their wallets for Crosby and his 12-year, $104 million deal. Not to mention the blockbuster moves of the Blackhawks to give stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane identical 8 year, $84 million deals, becoming the first two NHL players to break the annual $10 million per season ceiling.

The question with Stamkos is that if he is looking for contracts similar to those listed above, is he worth the money? Ovechkin is someone that can give a team 50 goals a season; Crosby is one of the players who is always towards the top of the league in points and MPV conversation. Toews and Kane are the heart and soul of the Blackhawks and their new age renaissance, bringing two Cups and two Conn Smythe trophies along the way.

What do the Lightning get with Stamkos? For certain, they get a player who can change a game on any given night, a leader and a proven natural goal scorer and someone that makes the players around him better. He has, however, yet to prove himself in the playoffs and lead his team to a Cup or deep postseason run, but that will come in due time.

The Lightning should be willing to pay Stamkos a healthy sum to retain his services, but Stamkos shouldn’t be too greedy also. A new contract within the 8 year maximum range isn’t asking too much, with an overall salary of $72-million would not be too bad. For Stamkos to earn around $9 million a season would bring him up to the standards of the top stars in the NHL, while also proving the Lightning aren’t forgetting the fact that he has his best years of hockey in front of him and bring them a Cup. And locking up one of the biggest offensive threats in the game wouldn’t hurt as well.

Peter Rossi

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