Vancouver Canucks Free Agency: Top 7 Centers to Target

Jan 5, 2016; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) skates during the warmup period against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome. Calgary Flames won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 5, 2016; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) skates during the warmup period against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome. Calgary Flames won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports /
facebooktwitterreddit
Prev
9 of 9
Next
vancouver canucks
Mar 22, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) passes the puck against the Detroit Red Wings during the second period at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

No.1: Steven Stamkos

But at the end, who can top the biggest name in this year’s free agency? Steven Stamkos stands atop as the one and only sure franchise player in this year’s pool of players. Go back to February and recall how much fuss there was about Stamkos potentially getting moved to Toronto.

While the Tampa Bay Lightning will definitely look to bring him back, other pieces in the equation may hold them back from doing so. The deep playoff run may result in many free agents in Tampa Bay looking for raises, including young talents like Alex Killorn, J. T. Brown, Vladislav Namestnikov, Nikita Kucherov, Cedric Paquette, Jonathan Marchessault, and Nikita Nesterov

Height / Weight: 6-foot-1, 194 lbs
Age: 26
2015-16 Stats: 77 GP — 36 Goals — 28 Assists — 64 Points
2015-16 Salary: $5.5 million*
Expected UFA Salary: $9.0 million

Steven Stamkos is one of the best scorers in the league, and at just 26 years of age, the case can be made that Stamkos is the one who opened the door for under-25 scorers to shine in the NHL.

Stamkos is a pure sniper who has a heck of a shot that can beat any netminder from anywhere in the zone. His skating his quick and agile, while his hand-eye coordination is arguably the best the modern NHL has ever seen. And as all franchise centers do, he also defends pretty well. And also as all franchise centers do, Stamkos does not back away from the physicality of the game.

More from The Canuck Way

But that could change.

The Tampa Bay Lightning have fared well in the playoffs without Stamkos who has been out with a blood clot for the entire playoffs to date. The word is that he will not play game four of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Having removed parts of his rib cage to make the surgery work, I cannot imagine how Stamkos feels about the physicality of the game as he seeks to return to the playoffs.

If he indeed returns, the playoff performance will only add to his value as he proves himself still fit for elite-level play. But if he does not figure into the lineup, one can only imagine how much of an unseen rift there could be between GM Steve Yzerman and the Stamkos party.

Man, is he good.

Proposed Line

D. Sedin – S. Stamkos – H. Sedin

What else can I add? An elite scorer for two elite playmaking snipers. The three have combined for 180 points this past season. Imagine the possibilities.

Next: Free Agent Friday: Top 5 Left Wingers to Target

Stamkos will be the face of the franchise. Stamkos will be able to carry the future of the team as Brock Boeser joins him on the top line in a few years’ time. With Bo Horvat and Brandon Sutter as the next two centers, the Canucks will be set for success for the next five years.

While the link to the Toronto Maple Leafs is strong for Stamkos and the Detroit Red Wings are joining the Philadelphia Flyers already in the efforts to appeal to Stamkos, a promising young team like Vancouver could lure Stamkos to the West Coast.

Looking at this year’s crop of free agents down the middle, Stamkos is the big win. But missing Stamkos would not spell a loss for the 29 other teams, nor would it define the current management’s inability to draw big-name players.

Next: Free Agent Friday: Top 5 Right Wingers to Target

Eric Staal could still be an elite scorer, and with the youth movement in full swing, a Sam Gagner or a Shawn Matthias will be welcomed in Vancouver.

Just 40 days remain till July 1st. Stay tuned.