Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman announced today that he will not be trading Captain Steven Stamkos before this month’s NHL trade deadline. A preemptive move that will hopefully quiet the distracting speculation and rumormongering, Yzerman’s announcement was emphatically clear. From the press release:
"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."
There’s exactly zero wiggle room there. Zero.
In a lot of ways, this announcement is a really positive thing for the Lightning and their fans. This will, as stated, allow Stamkos and the team to focus solely on the playoff push. It will hopefully silence all of the Twitter chatter. And, if we’re lucky, it will put a stop to this sort of fun (read: useless) stuff:
And these. (Ambidextrous Stamkoses) pic.twitter.com/Hxq61sVlwX— Bolt Prospects (@BoltProspects) February 15, 2016
This decision also gives the two sides more time to negotiate, and perhaps shows Stamkos that the team is truly invested in him. Maybe they reach an agreement on March 23rd, or April 17th, or May 22nd. That wouldn’t be possible if the team were to trade him prior to February 29th.
But, there’s a flipside. Yzerman stating that he won’t be trading Stamkos in advance of February 29th does not mean that the team will be able to get him signed. And what happens if the two sides can’t agree on a contract? It means Stamkos walks on July 1st, with the Lightning receiving absolutely nothing in return. It would be a disaster of epic proportions --- and that’s not an understatement! A player of Stamkos’s caliber hasn’t walked on his team for free in a long, long time. It’s not an easy thing for an organization to recover from.
So, there are two sides to this equation. On the one hand, this could all work out really well. On the other, it could set the organization back in a big way. This is hockey’s version of Russian roulette. And, as such, it begs the question: Is Yzerman’s decision to keep Stamkos past February 29th, even without a contract, the right one?
As always, thanks for reading.