The Twitter world went ablaze the last two weeks after Adam Proteau of The Hockey News wrote an article speculating whether Steven Stamkos or P.K. Subban would pull a Lebron James and return home to play with the respective franchise associated with their home city. For Stamkos and Subban that would be the Toronto Maple Leafs, AKA the “universe of hockey.”
Then Stamkos happened to favorite said article via Twitter and it caused even more of an uproar as people read into it that Stamkos was picking his future or endorsing the idea etc. Clearly more than a few Tampa Bay Lightning fans were upset and defensive that their star player was “being coveted by a big hockey market” and are still in the throes of recovering from their previously adored and beloved captain leaving. So they ended up acting like the proverbial defensively jealous lover and got all worked up. Stamkos has since “un-favorited the tweet” and no one has asked why he favorited the tweet in the first place.
Now that the social media drama has been addressed, let’s look at a few things about this story. The first being yes there is a possibility that Steven Stamkos would not re-sign with the Bolts and sign in his hometown with the Maple Leafs. Right now, Stamkos is being very coy about the situation and not giving a definitive answer either way and why should he? He has two whole years to decide which brings up this point.
The pressure is on the Toronto Maple Leafs to sign Stamkos not the Lightning. The Maple Leafs didn’t make the playoffs last year and vied for a top-10 ten pick in this past draft. Their fortunes haven’t really changed much as they haven’t made any huge upgrades in their offseason in terms of players. However, they did hire Kyle Dubas, a well-enthused hire by many, as a way to shake things up and change the environment of the Leafs’ front office.
There is no guarantee, however, that the Leafs will completely turn the ship around and be a playoff contender by the time Stamkos is a free agent. The Leafs do have young talent and some pieces but Stamkos has already made it clear he is about winning the Stanley Cup, as his talent will demand top price anyway.
“Right now I’m focused on what I have to do to win in Tampa, and I think we’ve really established ourselves as a team that can compete in upcoming years.
“For me, that’s the important thing is getting a chance to win. It looks like we’re going to have that chance for a couple years.”
So really making one hire and keeping some of their talent around may not be enough to convince Stamkos to leave what may be one of the powerhouses of the East, even if it is to play in front of friends and family night in and night out. Stamkos is at the prime of his career and has already gone through dark times with the Lightning organization and a rebuild. Why would he come home for another rebuild when he could win with what some are saying is the best team in the East right now?
And speaking of a potential powerhouse, the Lightning are obviously trending up right now and GM Steve Yzerman is in the midst of ensuring that the Bolts will vie for a playoff spot for the next few years probably beyond when Stamkos’ contract expires. The window is just opening and looking at some of the contracts Yzerman signed such as Anton Stralman’s 5-year deal, Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat’s deal, the window will definitely be open beyond Stamkos’ remaining two years.
Not to mention that Yzerman is a competent GM, and Jon Cooper is a competent coach as well so the Lightning have that as well as deep talent in the pipes with Ben Bishop, Andrei Vasalevskii, Kristers Gudlevskis capable of being a good NHL starting goalie for years to come.
All-in-all, the Lightning have a lot going for them and well Toronto is trying to right the ship a bit and establish some kind of winning ways.
If one could compare this situation to a romantic relationship it would Stamkos is looking at a Maple Leaf team that looks pretty (playing for his home franchise)“trying to get its life together” but it has to prove that to Stamkos before he says yes to joining them.
The pressure to sign Stamkos isn’t on the Lightning as they are doing everything to keep him by the moves that they have made. The pressure is on the Maple Leafs to have more than just a location and passionate fan base—they need to prove that they can win.