The Vancouver Canucks have several expiring contracts to make room for, yes, Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos.
The Vancouver Canucks have elite veterans in Henrik and Daniel Sedin. They have extremely talented youngsters in Bo Horvat, Jared McCann and Jake Virtanen. They have equally talented prospects in Brock Boeser and Thatcher Demko. One thing they do not have: an elite player in his prime.
Steven Stamkos could be that guy.
Stamkos, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s captain and best player, is still not signed to a contract extension to go beyond 2016. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman believes the Lightning made an offer some time ago — they would be stupid if they hadn’t. But Stamkos has not signed anything yet, leading to the assumption that he might not want to stay in Tampa as much as he and Lightning GM Steve Yzerman say.
Enter the Vancouver Canucks.
Friedman believes Vancouver could be one of the clubs that are about to throw a ton of money at Stamkos, attempting to win him for their franchise.
Let’s be honest here. If Stamkos does indeed hit unrestricted free agency this summer, there will be 29 teams pursuing his services. In fact, the Lightning probably won’t give up until it’s over, so they would be in the race until July 1st as well.
So, Friedman’s guess was that the number in Tampa’s offer “started with an eight.” In all likelihood, that means somewhere in the range of $80 million — not $8 million annually.
A comparable situation was that of Los Angeles Kings forward Anze Kopitar, who just inked a new eight-year, $80 million deal.
Now, how do the Canucks free up $10 million in cap space and, more importantly, can and should they spend that on one player while spending $14 million per season on the twins?
The first question is easy to answer. The problem of freeing up cap space will resolve itself this summer.
With the expiring contracts of Radim Vrbata, Dan Hamhuis, Brandon Prust, Matt Bartkowski and Yannik Weber, the Canucks will have $15.25 million to spend in free agency. But how do they fill the voids left by the aforementioned players?
That problem can be solved easily as well. The Canucks can push Virtanen and McCann into bigger roles and possibly pull up Hunter Shinkaruk from the AHL Utica Comets. That trio and Horvat are all on entry-level contracts. Virtanen, McCann and Shinkaruk are not due for extensions until the summer of 2018 — which happens to be the year in which the Sedin contracts expire.
So, cap space should not be the problem — back to the second question: should the Canucks spend that much on Stamkos?
If Vancouver signed Stamkos, he and the Sedins would have a combined cap hit of at least $24 million. That is comparable to Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa, the Chicago Blackhawks trio that combines for a $26.275 million cap hit.
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Looking at where the Blackhawks are standing — second in the NHL with a brand-new franchise record 12-game winning streak (that is still active) — the answer has to be yes. It is totally worth it.
Stamkos is only 25 years old. He has 296 goals and 535 points in 538 games. He is a two-time Rocket Richard Trophy winner, scoring 60 goals in the 2011-12 season. So the answer should be: hell yeah, he’s worth it.
With that out of the way, the real question is: does Stamkos want to come to Vancouver?
Born in Markham, Ontario — a suburb of Toronto — the Toronto Maple Leafs are Stamkos’ hometown team. If we assume that Stamkos gets the same contract offer from all 30 teams, it would be entirely unsurprising if he went to Toronto. If I were a Toronto native, I would do the same thing — what’s better than playing for your hometown team and being the face of the franchise?
Furthermore, Stamkos wants to win a Stanley Cup — just like every hockey player — and do that as quickly as possible. That potential is not necessarily there in Toronto, but is it in Vancouver?
Jim Benning and Trevor Linden would definitely have some persuading to do. Fact is: a team with Stamkos, Henrik, Daniel and youngsters Horvat, McCann and Virtanen could definitely have potential — but is that enough?
For now, all we can do is wait and see, hoping that Stamkos does not re-sign with the Lightning. Chances are, however, that he will before the trade deadline. And if he doesn’t, he might get traded then. The Canucks do not necessarily have what it takes to land him in a trade.
So, all things considered, the Canucks definitely have to try everything they can to land Stamkos. It is hard to imagine him in blue and green, but I am sure we could all get used to that quickly.
*All stats from NHL.com, contract data from GeneralFanager.com