Before I start, I'd like to say immediately that this has about a five percent chance of happening. Tampa Bay Lightning will try very hard to sign Steven Stamkos for a long time and at a very good wage.
That said, I think the Toronto Maple Leafs would be foolish not to at least run the ball in trying to pry the talented Stamkos from the Lightning. Through hook (trade) or crook (offer sheet.)
Let's look at some indisputable facts:
- Tampa is in the "have not" category of NHL teams. They cannot spend right to the cap. They have an internal cap—albeit not as low as other "have-nots"— but let's be real clear here. They won't be spending to the limits. 2011/12 cap is likely to be in the $62 million area.
- Currently, they have 11 players signed for next season. Of those 11, five have NMC/NTC totaling $25 million-plus. So sorry, no dumps or burying. Buyouts are not an option.
- They need to sign at least 10 players including Stamkos.
- Stamkos will be commanding at the very least $9 million per and for five-plus years. The most he can get—and believe me, he can command it—is 20 percent of the cap or about $12.4 million.
So how could the Leafs land him?
Option No. 1
Offer Sheet him.
From 2012 on, the Leafs have their own first-round picks. Assuming—and correctly at that— Stamkos won't be signed before draft day, then any offer sheet signing over $7.7 million will cost four first-round picks starting in 2012 draft year.
An August offer sheet signing of seven years at $11 million per ($77 million) would be very hard for Tampa to match. I've run the CapGeek on Tampa resigning nine players at exactly the same rates as this year with a few million saved here and there and with Stamkos being signed at $9 million.
It brings Tampa at the cap limit with a few million to spare. Well over their internal cap hit, which I can only speculate based on history, hovers closer to the floor ($47 million) than the ceiling. So say $55 million optimistically.
Will Burke do that? Likely not, but it'll be on the table as an option 'B' much like the Kessel deal was.
Option No. 2
Trade for him.
Let's be clear again with this. It won't include Schenn, Kessel, Reimer, Kadri or Kulemin. For monetary reason it won't include Phanuef or Lupal. However, it will be expensive.
- One of this years first-round picks—Tampa's choice.
- 2012 first-round pick.
- 2012 second-round pick. Toronto or Boston's—Tampa's choice. Assuming Kaberle resigns with Boston.
- One of either Grabovski, MacArthur, Bozak or 2013 first-round pick.
- Gustavsson, Scrivens or Rynnas
- One of either Aulie or Gunnarson
- One of either Blacker, Gardiner, Gysbers, Holzer or Mikus.
- One of either Ross, Ryan, McKegg, D'Amigo, Nicholls or Frattin.
As an example:
Two first-round picks (this year & next), next year's second-round pick, MacArthur, Gustavsson, Gunnarson, Blacker & Ross.
Is it fair? Probably more so—remember, a $12.4 million offer sheet would cost four first-rounders— and Tampa will be VERY hard pressed to match. This offer gets you two first- and one second-round pick, three young players and two good prospects, which is worth much more than simply four first-rounders.
Conversely, Burke could make a similar offer for trade (perhaps for ever so slightly less) to Ray Shero for Malkin. A Zach Parise offer sheet/trade could also be made—but for a much altered scenario than the one proposed above.
But my strong feeling is Burke will much rather get a natural centre.
Either way, it would change our franchise for the better for many years to come.