With each passing day Steven Stamkos doesn’t sign a contract extension, people keep talking about the possibility of the star winger leaving the Tampa Bay Lightning and signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs this off-season, should he become a free agent. But it doesn’t seem like anybody is talking about the other interesting options available to Stamkos should he not sign by July 1st.
Sure Toronto is the destination everyone is talking about because it’s close to his hometown of Markham, Ontario, and because they have the money to give him a huge contract, but the Maple Leafs are currently in a rebuilding process. Even if Stamkos does end up going there, it would still take a couple seasons for them to phase in their current prospects. get them acclimated to NHL play and seriously compete for the Cup.
Also, his every move would be open to criticism from the infamous Toronto media- as we saw what happened to Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf, and countless others. Going from a media market like Tampa to Toronto might be too big of a culture shock. With that in mind, here are some other possible options Stamkos might consider if he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
The Ducks might have the cap space to give Stamkos a large contract if they let players like David Perron, Shawn Horcoff and Chris Stewart walk in the offseason. He would be entering a win-now situation with the Ducks, who came just one win short of playing in the Stanley Cup Finals last season. Stamkos would provide a boost for the Ducks offense that, up until late, struggled to put the puck in the net. Plus, the possibility of playing alongside Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Rickard Rakell, and Ryan Kessler might would be attractive to Stamkos. Not only that, but getting large sums of money to play professional ice hockey in Southern California would be pleasing to anyone.
Besides the warm weather in Arizona and the cap space the Coyotes have, they are also undergoing an organizational retool that, in my mind, will allow them to compete for a Stanley Cup faster than the Maple Leafs. Stamkos would have the opportunity to play alongside and mentor young players like Max Domi, Anthony Duclair, Dylan Strome and Christian Dvorak. Those guys, along with the NHL veterans the Coyotes have now, could give them the core they need to compete for the Stanley Cup for years to come.
It would be a tight squeeze with the cap, but if the Stars can find a way to fit Stamkos in there, there’s no question they would have the best offense in the league. The Stars are currently the only team in the NHL with five players that have 40 or more points, and those numbers would improve with Stamkos playing on the wing. If their defense continues its improvement, the Stars featuring Stamkos would be the favorite to come out of the West every single year.
New York Islanders
If Kyle Okposo doesn’t re-sign with the Islanders, Stamkos would be an easy replacement. I believe his game would fit the Islanders system well, and he would enjoy playing with John Tavares and Mikhail Grabovski. The Islanders are already in a position to compete for the Eastern Conference crown, and Stamkos would provide an offensive boost.
This seems like a longshot, but recently, TSN Hockey Insider Bob Mckenzie said that if Stamkos were to become a free agent, the Buffalo Sabres would be the first team on his list. The Sabres do have young franchise cornerstones Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart and Rasmus Ristolainen developing early, and new additions Ryan O’Reilly and Evander Kane have been impressive with their play so far. The addition of Stamkos would give the Sabres a core that could compete for the Cup in the near future.
A team with cap space that can fit in a new contract, the Predators are in desperate need of an offensive boost, even with new addition Ryan Johansen. Stamkos, playing alongside Johansen, Filip Forsberg and James Neal, would flourish in Nashville under Peter Laviolette.
Even though they don’t have the cap space right now, the Canadiens have been mentioned several times as a possible landing spot for Stamkos. He would have a chance to play alongside childhood friend P.K. Subban, and the Canadiens are in need of more offensive firepower. However, they would have to clear out a couple of oversized contracts to fit him in.