Here’s Why Stamkos Return Keeps Lightning Among 2017 Stanley Cup Odds FavoritesIf Stamkos had hit the market on Friday, he probably could have commanded $11 million per year to become the NHL’s highest-paid player. The Toronto Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres, Vancouver Canucks, Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens and Detroit Red Wings for sure were going to chase Stamkos. They had the cap room to do so. Stamkos reportedly visited with the Maple Leafs on Wednesday (Stamkos is from Markham, Ontario, located in the Greater Toronto Area). Other teams also surely would have made moves to free up enough money to sign Stamkos.
Instead, Stamkos signed an eight-year deal with the Lightning that averages $8.5 million per season. Interestingly, only $1 million per year of that is in pure salary; the rest is payable in signing bonuses. The deal also includes a full no-movement clause for all eight seasons. Keep in mind that there is no state income tax in Florida so that saves Stamkos millions of dollars over the life of the deal than if he had signed with a Canadian team or a club in New York or California, for example.
Stamkos has spent his entire eight-year career with the Lightning, who drafted him No. 1 overall in 2008. He has scored 312 goals in 569 games since beginning his career in 2008-09, second only to Washington’s Alex Ovechkin (362) over that span. He has averaged 0.55 goals per game in his career, No. 2 among active players in the league. Stamkos is sixth in points per game at 0.99. He is 18th among active players in career goals and tied for 12th in power-play goals (108). Stamkos scored an NHL career-high 60 goals in 2011-12, when he won the Rocket Richard Trophy for the second time.
Winning also likely played a role and the Lightning are loaded with young talent. They advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2015, losing in six games to Chicago. This past season, with Stamkos out recovering from a blood clot, they reached the Eastern Conference finals, falling to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games. Tampa had a chance to finish that series at home in Game 6 but lost. Stamkos returned for Game 7 of the conference final after having surgery April 4.
Tampa Bay opens the 2016-17 season against the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday, Oct. 13 in Tampa. The Lightning are third favorites overall on betting lines in the Eastern Conference behind the Penguins and Capitals. Losing Stamkos would have sent Tampa Bay plummeting on the odds.
The best forward now on the free-agent market likely will be Milan Lucic, an intriguing player because of his ability to mesh his size (6-foot-3, 233 pounds) and physical play with his skill. He had 20 goals and 55 points in 81 games with the Los Angeles Kings this past season. Reports are the Edmonton Oilers are likely to sign him. Edmonton general manager Peter Chiarelli had Lucic in Boston.