There’s no official news to report on a new contract for restricted free agent Steven Stamkos, but let’s take a look at where things stand as far as the other 29 teams.
1. According to the league’s collective bargaining agreement, any team can attempt to sign Stamkos to an offer sheet, which the Lightning would then have the opportunity to match. For a player of Stamkos’s caliber, who would certainly be offered more than $5 million per season, the team signing him to the offer sheet would have to give the Lightning four first-round draft picks if they chose not to match the offer. This has been a very effective deterrent to teams poaching each other’s restricted free agents. It could still be done, but whichever team did it would be heavily mortgaging its own future.
2. There was a rumor earlier in the week that the Philadelphia Flyers might try and sign Stamkos to an outrageous offer sheet in the hopes of making the Lightning match it, screwing up their budget and salary-cap situation in the process. But general managers can be a vengeful sort, and often threats of mutually assured destruction are thrown around when a notable RFA hits the market. Ryan Lambert of Yahoo! Sports’ Puck Daddy blog had a very good post about the moral hazards of offer sheets that’s worth your time.
3. Who even has the money left to offer the kind of offer sheet that could be too pricey for Jeff Vinik (who by the way is a billionaire) to match? While there are several teams with lots of cap space available, they’re all under self-imposed budgets, or they have their own free agents to worry about in the not-too-distant future, like the Los Angeles Kings and Drew Doughty, or the Anaheim Ducks with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. (The Rangers’ cap figure doesn’t include the Brad Richards contract yet; the charts are updated daily.)
Given all these factors, it looks like Stamkos will undoubtedly play for the Tampa Bay Lightning next season and beyond. It’s just a matter of waiting for GM Steve Yzerman and Stamkos’s agents to work out a deal. So go outside and get some fresh air this holiday weekend, Lightning fans. You have nothing to worry about.