Stamkos speaks: Lightning captain discusses leaving money on the table, loyalty and sleepless nights considering Toronto homecoming

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Photo Credit: Dan Hamilton/USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Lightning centreman Steve Stamkos addressed the media on Thursday following his decision on Wednesday to prematurely end any speculation and re-sign with the club that drafted and developed him for eight years.

Stamkos, the NHL’s single best sniper, declined to discuss specifics about his meeting with the Toronto Maple Leafs or any other teams. He told the media that he realizes he left money on the table, but felt it was worth it to “follow his heart” and remain with a club that has a chance to win a Stanley Cup (or two) with the group that Steve Yzerman assembled. Stamkos also admitted that the thought of a hero’s welcome in the six was a tantalizing prospect that kept him up at night.

Before we get into the key tidbits from Stamkos’ conference call, let’s note that PIerre LeBrun reported on Wednesday evening that Stamkos did, in fact, meet with the Maple Leafs. He also heard pitches from the Buffalo Sabres and the Montreal Canadiens and a mystery fourth team, before deciding to re-sign with Tampa Bay and cancel a scheduled meeting with the Detroit Red Wings. 

In his latest 30 Thoughts column, Elliotte Friedman makes an educated guess that the San Jose Sharks were the mystery team scheduled to pitch Stamkos. Can you imagine that power-play with Joe Thornton working the right-side half wall and passing the puck to Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski and Stamkos (all right-handed shots)? That would’ve been ridiculous…

Anyway back to Stamkos, who addressed the near certainty that he left a substantial sum of total money on the table – at least in terms of raw contract value – so as to stay with the Lightning. His answers were admirable in the extreme:

We wrote at length about the Maple Leafs could learn from Tampa Bay’s crisis management masterclass yesterday, but neglected to mention a key point that Friedman touched on in his 30 Thoughts column and that Stamkos obliquely brought up himself on Thursday. Not only did the Lightning hold firm and get Stamkos signed at a reasonable amount, but they’ve effectively set an internal cap structure and now employ an enormously influential spokesman who has walked the walk and taken less to keep the club together. 

That’s a useful internal role model to have, particularly with Nikita Kucherov requiring a new contract this summer and Victor Hedman, Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat up after this coming season. 

And Stamkos wasn’t shy about stepping into that role during his re-signing availability on Thursday:

As for the Leafs, as you might expect, a variety of Toronto-based reporters were on the conference call and did their best to get Stamkos to discuss his meeting with the club. The superstar forward didn’t bite

He did, however, discuss the lure of Toronto as a city – the city of his birth (well Markham, but same difference) – and whether or not the prospect of returning to the 6ix as an unrestricted free agent was a tantalizing one. Stamkos admitted that he thought about it, but honestly, from the tweets shared on this subject, it sort of seems like it stressed him out:

Indeed, Stamkos suggested the whole process wasn’t necessarily a pleasant one, which perhaps partially explains why he cut the courting period short and instructed his representatives to get a deal done with the Lightning:

Even as Stamkos wasn’t sharing details about his meeting with the Maple Leafs, mayor John Tory was a bit more specific. He suggested that the bulk of his pitch was chapeau based, which, come on man.

While Yzerman was offering a chance to win a Stanley Cup (or two) with an elite young core, the mayor of Toronto was countering with a flat brim? 

  • Jeremy Ian

    Tampa was hands down the best place for him to stay to take a stab at the cup in his prime years but having said that, why didn’t he just sign back in January? The money stayed the same, ice-man Yzerman did not budge and props to him for standing firm. So, I don’t 100% buy the whole ‘money isn’t eveything’ thing here. His agent tried to use Toronto, Buffalo, X ,Y and Z teams as leverage but it the end it didn’t work out for them as them as they probably hoped it did.

    Overall will it actually help the team out? Everyone now has to take a cut to keep the team together? That’s convenient to say now when he just did it but wouldn’t commit to doing so back in January.

  • Jeremy Ian

    What Stamkos did is fine; he has a right to see what the market would bear at a critical moment in his life. Toronto may be home, and the Leafs his childhood team, but the guy’s a professional with a now slowly-closing window on winning a cup. TB is the most likely place for him to make that happen. When he was drafted, he had no choice; in eight years, his choices will be slim, if he’s still playing. So, this was his moment.

    Why didn’t he sign in January? Because there was no option: sign with TB or become a UFA; there were no options on the table and some guys around the league were getting paid more than him — including some who were traded yesterday. So, I don’t have any problem with him exercising his rights.

    If he was leveraging the Leafs, it didn’t work anyway. Yzerman didn’t blink. Shanny et al didn’t either. (Now, if the Leafs had lost out in draft, I’ll bet the calculus would have been different)

    It’s too bad for us, but in no way does it hurt the Leafs; it just means the rebuild will be as slow as the original plan envisioned — and Shanahan and Babcock promised. Fortuna has so far been smiling on the Leafs.

    • Koocheecoo

      I am feeling grumpy..

      Like I have been floating on a soft puffy cloud, then I roll over onto a thorn. Yucky feeling..

      This ride is over and Steven S., it comes out, hasn’t got the stuff to lead our beloveds’ to the promised land.

      It’s going to take bigger, better people.

      Like I said, I’m feeling grumpy. Ignore the thorn tweaking my side.

      Best wishes to Mr. S. Really.

      Wish I was good enough a player to be in a position to choose the Buds. The one who does, along with the rest of that team that will take all us dreamers there, will be special, forever.

      Going now, and I feel better.

  • Capt.Jay

    Go away Mr. Stamkos. You made your choice not to come home. You want to stay loyal to the organization that brought you up? What about the city that “actually” brought you up taught you the game? You’ll get no love from me anymore.

  • Jeremy Ian

    I’d have Matthews and Rielly in that meeting before I’d ever consider bringing in the mayor. What young guy cares about the mayor as a selling point to come to a team. I doubt most hockey players give two s#!%s about politics and the people involved

  • Gary Empey

    Don Cherry said the same as me. The Leafs were not interested in signing Stamkos. They were only kicking tires, to save face with the fans.

    The Leafs had just gotten rid of two long term, highly paid contracts. They had zero interest in negotiating for another.

    Stamkos never even hit free agency to see what the top dollar out there was. It was the Leafs or Tampa all along.

    PS – Lamoriello has a reputation of being a fair and honest negotiator. It is quite likely he politely told Stammer his reasons for Toronto’s lack of interest. What ever was said Stamkos immediately signed with his second choice.