Whether or not the Leafs should pursue Steven Stamkos in free agency has been a point of debate here and elsewhere for a while, as is the idea that Toronto will be (and perhaps always has been) a clear frontrunner for the star. But now with the month of June winding down and the draft just a week away, we at least know this is going to be settled soon, and we’ll get our answers one way or the other. However, for the Leafs’ front office, obviously things will be clearer before they are for us.
A week from tonight, not long after Mark Hunter gets up to the podium and announces “From the Zurich Lions…”, Lou Lamoriello and others will watch the clock hit midnight and officially be able to begin the process of courting Stamkos to Hogtown.
Talk about a fun weekend.
As of June 25th, the Leafs will get to take advantage of a somewhat new rule that allows teams to interview pending free agents before the big “frenzy” day on July 1st. I think it’s safe to assume Lou and company will make a play for Stamkos, but as agent Allen Walsh grumbles, given this rule they’ll likely have their answer by early next week and be able to establish a Plan B if need be. One could argue that with the Matthews pick alone, Friday will be one of the most important moments in franchise history for Toronto, but the ability to get out of the gate in the Stamkos sweepstakes officially could mean that ramps up ten-fold in the 24-hours after.
Roughly five days before free agency on July 1, unrestricted free agency, there’s a window that opens that’s called, under the CBA, the interview period, where teams and agents and players are allowed to officially and legally speak with each other. You’re allowed to discuss interest. The team is allowed to present the general parameters of what a contract would look like, or what an offer will look like on July 1. Those discussions take place right at the beginning of the interview period.
To be fair, you can see how, as an agent, this is a rule Walsh could do without, since it doesn’t really benefit players, and as he goes on to note, cuts down on a true frenzy of bidding wars somewhat.
But for a team like the Leafs, whose rebuild is in such an early and delicate stage, it probably helps to not have that level of panic associated with free agency. Same goes for fans.
Make no mistake, Toronto will draft Auston Matthews next Friday, and then they will go after Stamkos. How the latter plays out will probably be the most intriguing story of the summer, and the actual logistics of it are something to note as well. With scouts and front office staff still trying to further shape the future of the team through rounds 2-7 of the draft next Saturday, the higher-ups like Lamoriello and Shanahan might be up to something a tad bit more immediate.
Get ready for a nervous week, but certainly a better kind of nervous than we’re used to.