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Michael Tomasone The Hockey Writers

Published on Thursday, August 27, 2015





Uncertainty Surrounding Steven Stamkos Will Hinder Tampa’s Success

The 2015-2016 season is fast-approaching with the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs set to kickoff the new campaign, but the spotlight is already directed towards the 2016 offseason. Describing the list of potential unrestricted free agents as star-studded is an understatement. The list features the NHL’s top players and perennial All-Stars, but one name will definitely dominate the headlines if an agreement isn’t reached with his current team.

The Tampa Bay Lightning are coming off a fantastic season, and general manager Steven Yzerman definitely wants his young team to continue last year’s success. Despite falling short of the Stanley Cup, Tampa Bay proved to be one of the league’s superior teams. The Lightning’s window to win the Stanley Cup is wide open, but the team’s chances of winning the coveted trophy could be affected with captain Steven Stamkos heading into free agency. The 25-year-old is an elite player having amassed 498 points in seven seasons, but Yzerman and his management team have a tough decision to make regarding their captain.

The former Maurice Richard Trophy winner has scored over 40 goals in four seasons, and he’s the only player in franchise history to record 60 goals in a campaign (2011-12). Stamkos is the Lightning’s best player and leader, but questions need to be asked of his importance due to the complications that arise if he resigns. With Stamkos already having a cap hit of $7.5 million, Yzerman needs to be wary of rewarding his captain with a significant raise.

Despite earning only $5.5 million in the upcoming season, the prolific goalscorer represented a large part of Tampa’s payroll between 2012-15. In addition to Stamkos’ contract situation, the Lightning have to discuss Alex Killorn and Nikita Kucherov who are set to become a restricted free agents.

Yzerman and his staff definitely have their work cut out for them in the next 24 months. Tampa is in danger of having similar issues as the Chicago Blackhawks, with members of its core due raises following Stanley Cup victories in 2010, 2013, and 2014.

Patrick Kane and Johnathan Toews are scheduled to earn $13.8 million this season, carrying an astronomical cap hit of $10.5 million. Due to key players receiving enormous raises, Chicago was forced to part with members of its supporting cast. Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Kris Versteeg (since reacquired), Nick Leddy, Patrick Sharp, and Brandon Saad have all been traded due to salary cap restraints.

Ben Bishop and Victor Hedman are set for contract renewals in two seasons time, while Jonathan Druin, Tyler Johnson, and Ondrej Palat will become restricted free agents at the same time as well. Despite currently being in the midst of a tough situation, there’s a silver lining to Tampa’s conundrum. With the emergence of goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, Yzerman’s decision regarding Bishop may be easier than expected.

The 21-year-old and former 19th overall pick performed admirably during the regular season, but rose to stardom during the Stanley Cup final. If Vasilevskiy’s development continues in an upward trajectory, Bishop’s intended salary can be reinvested in the squad. Regardless of the outcome with Stamkos or Bishop, Yzerman’s decision will definitely have an impact on Tampa’s window to win the Stanley Cup.


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