Handicapping the Bruins’ chances at signing Stamkos
One of the most prized hockey players to hit the unrestricted free agent market in recent memory, Steven Stamkos is about to cash in big when he signs his next contract. Who he signs with is anyone’s guess.
Several teams, including the Red Wings, Sabres, Maple Leafs, Canucks, Rangers, Canadiens and Bruins have been linked as to having an interest in signing Stamkos. That list could grow as the rumour mill heats up before the first day of free agency this Friday.
Not to forget, there’s still a possibility that Stamkos decides to stay with the team that drafted him first overall in 2008, the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Entering free agency, the Bruins have 14 players under contract and nearly $21 million in cap space according to General Fanager. With general manager Don Sweeney desperately looking to improve the B’s blue-line, one has to assume that some of that money will be allocated to his top off-season priority via trade or free agency. Additionally, assuming Torey Krug re-signs, the Bruins cap space will need to be between the $10 and $15 million range if they have any realistic shot at signing Stamkos.
No doubt the addition of Stamkos would give the Bruins fanbase a shot in the arm after watching their beloved hockey team miss the playoffs for two straight years. Adding Stamkos to a core of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci and potentially David Pastrnak and Ryan Spooner is enticing.
The aforementioned scenario is appealing from both a scoring perspective and a marketing standpoint. Realistically, however, the other teams involved in the Stamkos sweepstakes, including the Lightning, are in a better position.
As the Lightning enter the off-season fresh off their second straight appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals, the re-signing of Stamkos would signal the chance of settling unfinished business in hopes of getting over the hump. With a plethora of talent from “The Triplets” — Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat — to Victor Hedman and a deep blue-line and either Ben Bishop or Andrej Vasilevskiy between the pipes, the Bolts have the talent in place for deep playoff runs for years to come, and keeping Stamkos in the fold certainly wouldn’t hurt those chances.
Having cleared significant cap space at this weekend’s draft by trading Pavel Datsyuk’s contract to the Coyotes, the Red Wings now have $7.5 million in extra cap space to go after Stamkos. With some good young talent in the fold such as Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Dylan Larkin, Justin Abdelkader and Tomas Jurco, Detroit is still a year or two (or more) away from going from fringe playoff team to contenders. Signing Stamkos might quicken that transition to postseason success while giving Ken Holland a face of the franchise for their new digs in 2017-18 — Little Caesars Arena in Downtown Detroit.
With rebuilding efforts in Toronto and Buffalo, a Stamkos signing would give more hope for those cities’ futures. Having Stamkos as a top two center with either Jack Eichel or Auston Matthews would give either the Sabres or Leafs another scorer to ease the pressure off their promising talents.
Adding Stamkos to the current Bruins roster would likely get the team over the hump and into the playoffs in 2016-17. Compared to the way some of the teams are constructed that will inquire about Stamkos this week, the Bruins will have their hands full — unless they make a significant trade for a top blue-liner before Friday: then they may be in a better position.
Unlikely? Yes. Impossible? No.