Stamkos definitely won’t be coming to the Leafs…this season

I think the last time I wrote a headline like the one above, it was to pass along news that Mike Babcock wouldn’t be hired by the Leafs. How embarrassing. [To be fair, how often is McKenzie off the mark like that?]

Anyway, this time around I’m quite confident this piece is going to stand up. The idea of Steven Stamkos being a pre-deadline acquisition by the Leafs is all but dead. Maybe it was never alive.

This isn’t big news. As much as the speculation around Stamkos to Toronto has been rampant and constantly growing, fans have generally been in the camp that pursuing him ahead of the upcoming free agency period is essentially a waste. I mean, why give up assets in the form of players/prospects/picks if you (supposedly) have the inside track on signing him this summer anyway?

But keep in mind there are some benefits to making a move like this and trying to get the jump on 29 other clubs, obviously. And it’s been done in the past, most notably by the Leafs’ current general manager. In fact, it would help both sides a little.

This bidding war that’s potentially coming on July 1st will likely be the biggest in the history of NHL free agency, and if the Leafs can get to work on a contract earlier and be able to offer an additional year and perhaps save some cap space, that’s obviously a major consideration. It’s probably in Stamkos’ best interest to net as much term as possible too, so negotiating as a “re-signing” with the Leafs would make sense. 

But it’s beyond a long shot.

Erik Erlendsson, who’s been following ‘Stammergeddon’ closely in Tampa, recently speculated on which teams might be on the other side of the phone if Yzerman wants to make a move, and the Leafs are on that list. But as he notes, even more so than the other teams mentioned, they’d be unlikely to work something out.

It’s just difficult to imagine the Leafs having too much of a sense of urgency here, and to make things even more mismatched, the Lightning have somewhat surged in the standings. Armed with a no-movement clause, there’s basically no chance Stamkos gives up another Cup run – perhaps his last in Tampa – to go to Toronto and hang out in the league basement for the remainder of the schedule.

And that’s what makes this situation so much different than Kovalchuk’s in 2010, or more recently, even that of lesser-name pending FAs to be moved at the deadline, like Vanek or Petry. Stamkos has all the control here. Even if Yzerman feels backed into a corner and in need of making a deal like Don Waddell did with Kovalchuk a few years back, he likely won’t even be able to. It’s not really going to be up to him.

A few months back, I wrote about how the Kovalchuk deal might be a good bar to set for speculating on a trade for Stamkos. Like we mentioned, Lamoriello has the experience to pull something like this off. But as this season has unfolded, it’s probably not realistic to think this could happen. 

Like the rest of the league, the Leafs and their fans will just have to wait.

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  • jimithy

    Why would Stamkos want to play on the worst team in the NHL? There are no players to support him on the ice. And as long as Phaneufle remains the captain there is no hope for that predicament to change.

  • FlareKnight

    Yeah, I can’t see anything happening before the deadline here. Maybe in the offseason before July 1st. If Stamkos is 100% not coming back, I could see Tampa trying to trade the rights for whatever they can get.

    Will just be something to wait and see on. I’m not confident anything will happen with Stamkos, but it would be pretty fun.

  • Seems likely the Lightning will hang on to Stamkos for a cup run, and then trade his rights before he becomes a UFA. The right to exclusively negotiate with Stamkos before he becomes a UFA is definitely worth something, and if the Lightning can’t re-sign him, they’ll retain him for the cup run and then at least get *something* before he walks on July 1.

    Would the Leafs give up a couple of depth picks for two weeks of exclusive negotiation with Stamkos? Seems like a smart move for both teams.

    • Jeremy Ian

      Who would trade with Tampa for his rights after the cup run but before he becomes a UFA? I don’t think that “exclusive” is worth much at all, and if Stamkos is leaving Tampa, with or without a cup, he’s going to want to see all his options.

  • Gary Empey

    @Ryan Fancey, For the most part your take on Stamkos is right on the money. Speaking of money, any team that expects to get a bargain, may as well quit wasting their time. Nobody leaves 3 or 4 million on the table.

    The rumor that Stamkos would like to move back to the GTA, has been around so long now, that most of us except it as the truth.

    Does anyone know the origin of the rumor? Was it simply wishful thinking or is there some basis of fact here?

    It makes sense to me that Stamkos agent has some idea of where he could possibly end up.

    If the rumor is true and we are looking at 11/12 million I can see Tampa giving permission to Toronto to quietly see if the Leafs can sign him. If we are looking at the NHL maximum of 14 million and change then Toronto may as well wait until July.