According to Eklund (yeah, I know, he is not exactly the most credible source out there), the Tampa Bay Lightning are having trouble re-signing their restricted free agent superstar Steven Stamkos, who is one of the most talented, and likeable, players in the league. Regardless of the source, it is no secret that the team is having some difficulty locking him up. Supposedly, the two sides are currently nowhere close to reaching an agreement, and although another team could offer-sheet Stamkos, the return of four first round draft picks as compensation, probably does not sit well with management, even though it is such a hefty price. Let’s face it, the only team that would attempt to poach him would be a contender (or would become one with his acquisition), therefore, in the eyes of the Lighting, those draft picks would not yield much, since they would be near the bottom of the picking order. Should they know they are not going to reach an agreement, they can easily trade his rights to another team, and acquire current NHL roster players, draft picks, and prospects, which is more fruitful than just four picks.
If you remember the Larry Brooks article from this past season, on how the New York Rangers were so close to trading for Stamkos (I believe there was a handshake deal of some sort involved, before Steve Yzerman took over), you know they are interested in him. Glen Sather will never offer-sheet a player of that magnitude, just because he is much more classy than that. He has never done it before, and will never do it, so you can just forget about that option. The Rangers’ drafting in the hands of Gordie Clark also would not allow for the team to lose out on four first round picks, which would severely hinder the franchise’s ongoing development. If the Rangers want Stamkos, they will have to trade for him, in what will probably be the biggest blockbuster deal in recent memory.
One of the reasons why Stamkos has not yet signed is probably because he wants a front-loaded deal, and the Lightning either do not have the money for it, or just do not want to shell it out. Well, what is the one team that does have the money? The New York Rangers. Provided they can somehow maneuver the salary cap to fit him, they can give him whatever salary he requires in the immediate future. $24 million over the next two seasons? Book it. A no trade clause? Book that too, since Sather hands them out like candy any way. The Rangers need to be in on this, because even with an addition of Brad Richards, they still are not yet a contender. But if they were to add Stamkos, however, the team’s complexion would change dramatically, as they would finally have a legitimate (if not scary) top six, with solid role players on the bottom six.
But what would it take to acquire a player such as Stamkos? The Rangers would most likely have to send Brandon Dubinsky, another roster player, a first round pick, and a top prospect from the farm system. Michael Del Zotto could be that other roster player, while the prospect can be anyone in the team’s system, and I mean anyone—let the Lightning have their choice. I must admit, that as exciting as this thought is, it is highly unlikely, but should Stamkos become available via trade, the Rangers need to get in on it; Sather still has some magic left in the tank.