Since the Leafs’ season has so far shown to be as expected, most fans have now settled in nicely for draft lottery talk and looking forward to next year as more prospects in the currently system mature to hopefully hit their NHL stride in 2016.
But there’s still Stamkos Watch.
Don’t think it’s gone away. It hasn’t. And it won’t until something gets hammered out.
Now, as much as I believe the Leafs and Stamkos is a real thing that can happen, and even though this negotiation has spilled into his final contract year, the Lightning are obviously still runaway favourites to keep him beyond next summer. As his agent, Don Meehan, pointed out on TSN1050 today, it isn’t totally normal for players of magnitude to get to this point unsigned but it’s something we’ve seen before – notably with Getzlaf and Perry in Anaheim.
But another quote in the segment is a bit more of an eye-popper (via transcription by Chris Nichols at TSS):
“All that we’re really doing at this point in time is taking a little bit more time…But we’re engaged with Steve Yzerman. And as I say, we have a great relationship with him. And when you get to a point in a career where you have professional decisions to make like this – as you know, the Collective Bargaining Agreement doesn’t really afford you this kind of opportunity that often. And the Collective Bargaining Agreement is a give and take process, and it’s something that you – for this kind of a decision and this kind of player, I really think that you have to practice due diligence to the nth degree.”
Meehan isn’t saying anything groundbreaking here for the most part. His client is in a position to cash in heavy, at peak age, maybe to the tune of a league-max contract.
But “due diligence” in this context could mean taking this thing far enough that Stamkos tests the waters of free agency. Due diligence could mean hearing what the Leafs (and their pending boatload of cap room) have to say. It’s an interesting quote for sure, and it definitely will add to the concern that he could leave Tampa, a team deep with talent and expensive cap hits, to rake in as much money as he can on what should easily be the biggest contract of his career.
Yzerman was asked on TSN Drive this evening (during a segment about Fedorov and the Hall of Fame) to weigh in on the negotiations, but quickly shot things down by saying it isn’t something he’ll discuss through the media.