With the hockey world (yours truly included) practically certain that Stamkos was set to walk when the clock struck July 1st, the captain surprised everyone by signing a very, very, very affordable deal with Tampa Bay. Remember all that talk about him getting $10-million, $11-million, or even $12-million per year on the open market? Somehow the Bolts locked him up for an amount that can only be described as a discount.Stamkos's deal with TB is expected to come in at eight years, with an AAV of $8.5M.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 29, 2016
The reasons Stamkos was willing to accept that discount, even after a long year of negotiations, are clear. He has said from day one that he wants to stay in Tampa; he reiterated that today after the announcement was made by saying that he wants to be a Bolt for the rest of his career, and that this is another step on that pathway. He has also repeatedly noted that his biggest desire is to win. Well, if recent history has proven anything it's that the Lightning are in good shape in that department.
The bottom line: He wanted to stay in Tampa. The Lightning give him a chance to do that. He wants to win. The Lightning will give him a chance to do that. No other team in the league could offer him that combination, not even Toronto. Stamkos deserves oodles of credit for sacrificing some money in order to have what's important to him.
Of course, the other guy who deserves a heap of praise for this deal is Lightning GM Steve Yzerman. All season long, the (limited) reporting out of Tampa indicated that the team wasn't willing to go north of $8.5M per season; that figure didn't change. As time wore on, it was just assumed that Stamkos would walk away and get more. Yzerman didn't blink. He stuck to his number and was eventually rewarded for it. The Lightning now have one of the league's premier goal scorers under contract for the next eight years at a cap hit that doesn't make anyone (aside from fans in Toronto, Buffalo, and Detroit) want to cry.
Perhaps the most important component of Yzerman's mastery, though, is the fact that this deal has the potential to do more for the Lightning off the ice than it does on the ice:
Keeping Stamkos and his virtually guaranteed 30-plus goal production in Lightning blue is a big plus, but the thought of using this deal as a benchmark when it comes to negotiations with guys like Victor Hedman, Nikita Kucherov, and others is enough to make any Tampa fan's eyes light up like a Christmas tree. This, as the tweet says, sets the tone.Best part of 91's deal is that it (hopefully) sets the tone for everyone else who needs to be re-signed in next year or two. #TBLightning— Michael Stuart (@MikeStuartTLL) June 30, 2016
Moving away from the deal itself for a moment, it is interesting to take a quick look at how we got here. According to TSN's Pierre LeBrun, Stamkos met with Toronto, Montreal, Buffalo, and one "mystery team" this week during the free agent frenzy interview period. What happened during those meetings? What caused him to suddenly pivot back to Steve Yzerman and the Lightning today? I'm not sure we'll ever know. One thing we do know, however, is that the pivot surprised even the Lightning GM himself:
And "get this thing going" they did. The deal is done. The ink is dry. For whatever reason, the Captain turned around and signed on the dotted line with the only team he's known since debuting in 2008. Like so many Lightning fans, I'm incredibly thankful for it. What a great day.#tblightning Yzerman said he was "surprised" to get this call from Stamkos' agent this afternoon. "I said 'Ok, let's get this thing going"— Joe Smith (@TBTimes_JSmith) June 30, 2016
As always, thanks for reading.