Is Tampa Doing An About Face On Stamkos?

Is Tampa Doing An About Face On Stamkos?&h=235&w=320&zc=1

With the NHL trade deadline approaching on February 29, the hockey media has been busy trying to figure out what becomes to Steven Stamkos. He’s in his last year of his deal with Tampa Bay who has as of yet shown little urgency in re-signing him. The speculation has been for almost a year now the presumption is that the Lightning will cast their fortunes with their talented young playmakers–who will also need to get paid at some point–and let Stamkos go. With reports indicating that he’ll be looking for Patrick Kane/Jonathan Toews type money that scenario seemed even more likely.

Earlier this weekend, hockey pundits had Stamkos all but fitted in a Buffalo Sabres jersey but not so fast. This morning, Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman apparently threw a monkey wrench into those plans with a statement that Stamkos isn’t going anywhere for the time being: “As February 29th approaches, I am stating today that Steven Stamkos will not be traded before the NHL’s Trade Deadline. I have said repeatedly that it is our hope to reach an agreement with Steven on a new contract at some point, and with 27 games remaining in the season, our entire organization, Steven included, wants to focus on making the playoffs. I will keep the negotiating process strictly between the involved parties and have no further comment on the state of those negotiations.”

Stamkos will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 which makes that statement somewhat strange, since it weakens Tampa’s leverage in the process significantly. That assumes Yzerman is telling the truth–this could be like the ‘vote of confidence’ for a head coach that is fired within a couple of weeks. It could also be a negotiating ploy–that Tampa is willing to commit to Stamkos long term and hoping that this show of goodwill keeps him from immediately skipping town for the highest bidder. Then again, since Stamkos has a ‘no movement’ clause in his contract Yzerman can’t do anything without his consent.

There is one advantage for Stamkos to stay in Tampa–if he signs a new deal with the Lightning before June 30 he can get a maximum eight year deal. If he waits until he becomes a UFA he can only get a seven year max deal.

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