The above is obviously a photoshop from the Kessel trade. Burke is gone, Stamkos’ head is on wrong, The 9 is bigger than the 1, that’s an old jersey, and the wrong nameplate for an old jersey as well. But there has been a bunch of speculation that’s going around. Nothing is imminent in the slightest, but here’s where we’re at in this “offseasonest thing to ever offseason” scenario.
- Inspired by Lebron James’ return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Adam Proteau wrote a piece pondering when a Toronto-born superstar would come to the Maple Leafs via free agency. He singles out Steven Stamkos primarily, but also mentions PK Subban and other players.
- Proteau tweeted his article out. Within hours, it was favourited by Steven Stamkos. It was Stamkos’ 5th favourite in his Twitter career. Stamkos has since unfavourited the tweet.
- Twitter user @HaTTrickTYL3R tweeted Stamkos and John Tavares asking them to pull a Lebron & Bosh to Miami move and come to the Leafs. Stamkos favourited this tweet as well. Stamkos has since unfavourited this tweet.
- Proteau followed up on twitter and noted that a source said that Stamkos signing in Toronto come 2016 is a possibility, but would require a max contract.
This follows a January article by the Toronto Star’s Damien Cox, which suggests that Tim Leiweke’s “power move” should be to go all in on Stamkos.
I’m not one to feed the rumour mill, and tend to keep myself to giving my opinions on what’s going on, rather than trying to provide “the scoop”, unless something is confirmed. However, it is worth noting that I’ve been told that Cox’s article isn’t far from the actual mindset of Tim Leiweke.
2016 and 2017 are ramping up to be the “big play” years for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. The Raptors will be hosting the 2016 NBA All Star Game, and based on their recent success and prospect pool, look to have a chance to be competitive around that time. The Leafs, on the other hand, are going to be looking towards their 100th anniversary. One can imagine that this World Cup and Euro 2016 will probably help increase soccer interest in North America and provide a windfall for a currently-rising Toronto FC’s buying power as well.
Leiweke, as we know, is basically the Hank Scorpio of the sports business industry. He won’t be satisfied with success; he won’t stop until he has complete and total domination. Getting in-prime mega stars is in line with the idea of competitive ability and domination. So here’s where it gets interesting – in 2016, both the NHL and NBA have mega stars hitting free agency. Both could end up being the best players in the world at that point in time as the class in front of them starts to hit decline. Only one of them is Torontonian, but both of them grew up watching Toronto teams.
I’m just saying, if the Toronto Media, which in many senses is controlled by the super-powers that split ownership of these teams, spend the next two years hyping up the potential signings of Steven Stamkos and Kevin Durant, don’t be all too shocked. As we can see, hockey saviour is getting lots of attention already. Basketball saviour is finding his way too. Leiweke has told people that these two are targets if the opportunity arises.
Again, rumours aren’t really my thing. I’m not as gossipy as Eklund, nor as connected as Bobby Mac. Also, note that I haven’t heard anything as to whether these guys want to come to Toronto; just that Toronto wants them. Anyway, there’s a very real chance this turns into nothing. But I figure that given the situation, it’s only fair that I acknowledge that I’ve heard this tune from places other than the speakers that are being blasted at the public right now.
As for the benefit that could arise? It would obviously be incredible from a hockey perspective. Stamkos is a top 5 centre in the game, and the second youngest of the other four in the (Crosby, Malkin, Toews, Tavares). He has electrifying ability, and a combination of himself and Phil Kessel would be the biggest threat to score goals in the National Hockey League, regardless of left winger. A 2016 signing would also work out great in terms of maxing out the value of Tyler Bozak’s contract; he’ll have two years left and as such be more attractive to teams who might find acquiring him without Kessel a little risky.
Proteau’s “sign for max” note is concerning, depending on what it means. As Cox wrote in his original article, the cap will probably be about $80 million come the 2016 offseason, meaning a salary max would be at about $16 million (20% of the ceiling). Without super long term deals, the high end of NHL salaries is going up. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane getting $10.5 million each is a good example of that. But I don’t have confidence that we’ll see somebody jump significantly ahead of that over the next few years. Nobody in the “elite” class hits UFA or even RFA next year. The only skaters who will likely command elite money in the next three offseasons are PK Subban (current RFA) and Anze Kopitar (2016 UFA).
Let’s say somebody does something stupid and gives another player $13 million a year. Unlikely given the current crowd. Is Stamkos even $3 million better than the rest of the league’s players? If Toews and Kane stay the front runners for the next few years (Alexander Ovechkin’s deal was the highest cap hit in the league for six years), is Stamkos $5.5 million better? Is he worth two Phil Kessels?
At that point, it’s “great player would accept great money”, not “great player wants to come home”. If max means term, however, I’d absolutely give the thumbs up to a 7 year contract. It will bring him to his early-mid 30’s, where he’ll begin to taper off but still not hit total regression barring catastrophic injury. Heck, you could even offer Tampa Bay an NBA style “sign and trade” scenario where you throw them a draft pick in exchange for them getting you the 8th year.
It’s a pipe dream, but what a scenario it could be. Not because the Leafs need a local boy to lead them to glory, but because Steven Stamkos is amazing at hockey and would end this chase for a top centre once and for all.
Ultimately though, the Leafs still looking at something that may or may not happen, likely the latter, two years from now. But it’s fun speculation in any event. Or it’s a reason that Stamkos should stop favouriting people talking about him on Twitter.