July 1st isn't here yet, but since we're officially in the weird period between season's end and the 2016-17 shopping spree, it is a good time to have a look at what awaits us when the bell rings. And what better way to start than with that age-old American tradition, gluttony? Yes, I am talking about signing a former 60-goal scorer.
I know, I know. "More offense? Pish posh!" and all that, but stick with me, because I wouldn't be writing about this if I didn't have the kernel of an idea of how it could work. Besides, do you really want to assume you know what Jim Nill is going to do this summer? Me neither.
Steven Stamkos just turned 26, and you have probably heard of him before. You may remember him as the fresh-faced rookie Barry Melrose refused to trust, or perhaps you know him as the fait accompleaf that Ontario citizens have been declaring him to be for the last calendar year. Either way, the man scores goals, and lots of them. He also apparently wasn't thrilled to be playing right wing instead of center on occasion, but I guess on the bright side, that means he could be a great fit on Cody Eakin's line. That sounds like upside to me.
Stamkos is an elite scorer whose production has only been stopped by injuries, although his recent history is a bit more eyebrow-raising. While the broken leg was merely a hiccup (he still averaged .68 goals per game in the shortened 13-14 season), his recent blood clot issues (vascular thoracic outlet syndrome) required surgery, medication and an intense recovery regimen just to make it back in time to lose to Pittsburgh in Game 7 of the ECF. It was great to see Stamkos back on the ice, but you could
Incidentally, as disappointing as it must have been to lose after just a one-game return, one has to give a respectful nod to Stamkos's comeback with his big payday looming. Or, if you are cynical, you could say his comeback might have helped ensure a big payday come July by demonstrating his Will to Win At All Costs and all that stuff. Either way, he is a professional athlete who worked really hard to help his team win while it was his team. It may no longer be his team in a very short matter of time.
The Stars already have a couple of top-six centers signed for a while, and yes, I am talking about Seguin and Spezza, you bunch of smartypants. That means Dallas probably isn't going to be able to make a convincing pitch to Stamkos without making room for him, and given that Tyler Seguin is on the friendliest of deals, that means you're probably talking about a Spezza for Stamkos swap.
The difficulty here—well, one of them—is that the Stars would need to make such a trade while almost simultaneously negotiating with Stamkos. Of course, even if the Stars do pull off that sort of move (or at least pinky swear to do so by puck drop in October), you'd probably have a tough time convincing Stamkos or Seguin to take second-line center minutes. That means you would have a permanent Superline, which could mean depth problems for Dallas in the immediate future, right? Well, perhaps...or perhaps Cody Eakin could slot down the lineup, Radek Faksa could move up, and Mattias Janmark could start being the stud centerman many of us suspect him to be.
Also, I'm not going to mention how Stamkos and Seguin basically play the same role on the power play. Well, I guess I just did, but you know what I mean. Power plays can be adjusted to match the talent available, though. (Personally, I would love to see Stamkos and Seguin just set up ten feet apart from each other in the left faceoff circle. They would force the PK to overload both shot lanes, not knowing which one-timer the Stars would choose to unleash, and it would be the most absurd and dumb thing you ever saw, unless it worked, which it definitely* would.)
So, yeah, the fit would be tough, but if you could trade Spezza (who would have to waive his NTC) for a 7-years-younger version, you'd be foolish not to consider it, right?
*Oh, come on, you knew exactly what the asterisk was for
Stamkos has scored about 0.5 goals per game and a full point per game since the lockout. He scored 36 goals last year (Yes, it is now officially "last" year), which felt like a disappointment for someone with four seasons of at least 43 goals to his credit.
Of course, scoring tends to peak in the early 20s, and while Spezza ticked back up a bit in his later 20s (and has done nicely the past two years in Dallas as well), Stamkos's four-year trend isn't exactly encouraging:
Steven Stamkos, points per game:
Again, there are injuries in there that could have depressed some of those numbers, and scoring has been decreasing or stagnant league-wide for a while now. Besides, if coming to Dallas can't bump up your scoring numbers, I don't know what can.
Still, you are talking about eight years and a bidding war against the richest team in the NHL for a player whose numbers in the Eastern Conference are showing a worrisome downward trend. That's worth remembering.
TB supposedly offered 8 years/$68 Million, to which Mr. Stamkos promptly said "Yes, thank you, but I believe I would like to have another $10 million dollars on account of we are talking about $10 million dollars."
So, uh, I guess I just said the dollars: something like $11 million for seven years, or possibly more if Dallas outbids a GM who gets drunk at the draft. One would think Jim Nill would shy away from nuking his salary cap further than such a deal would already do, though.
Really, the only way the money makes sense here is if Dallas decides that Stamkos will provide an elite level of production at a price they can afford. There is a chance that price could be lower than expected if other teams are similarly disenchanted with Stamkos's scoring trends. If that proves to be the case, then signing a 26-year-old superstar for a good long while doesn't look like that bad of an idea at all, does it?
Will it Happen?
Shoot, I dunno. Probably not, right? There are tons of teams who would love a Stamkos; goodness knows Detroit, for instance, won't be content to stand pat with the scoring depth they "have" right now.
So, yeah, apologies for not being a Carnac (or a Cassandra, depending on how you'd feel about this signing), but make up your own mind. Or maybe just be patient and find out this summer! Honestly, you kids and your apple tubes and youphones. So impatient.