June 29, 2011
Facts suggest Stamkos staying put
By MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency
TORONTO - The impending arrival of the NHL’s self-proclaimed free-agent frenzy on Friday seems to be overshadowed in some markets by the ever-increasing concept we like to call “Stamkos-palooza.”
With the handlers for Steven Stamkos scheduled to resume talks with the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday, fans in places such as Toronto and Philadelphia already were urging their teams to prepare an offer sheet to scoop up the young sharpshooter in the event he does not re-sign with the Bolts by Friday, a scenario that would make him a restricted Group 2 free agent.
With all the misinformation flowing out there concerning Stamkos, here are some facts about his situation.
-- While he was fanatical about the Leafs during his days growing up in Unionville, Ont., Stamkos has not been shy about recently telling friends there how much he loves playing in Tampa.
-- He considers Martin St. Louis to be like a big brother after the veteran forward became a mentor to Stamkos during the kid’s rough beginning to his career under the Barry Melrose regime.
-- Stamkos recently said the two sides were “close” while general manager Steve Yzerman this week remained optimistic that a deal would be done.
-- Yzerman is on record as saying the Lightning will match any offer sheet forwarded to Stamkos.
-- Stamkos has scored a league-best 96 goals over the past two seasons.
-- There are plenty of other teams, aside from the Leafs and Flyers, considering the offer-sheet route, although nowhere has there been more conflicting reports than Philly. Wednesday’s Daily News quoted a Flyers source as saying they would pursue Stamkos while the Inquirer’s source said they would not.
-- Published reports suggest the issue in negotiations is based more on money than tenure. The popular number being thrown around on the internet is an annual salary of between $7 million to $7.5 million US.
-- Offer sheets cannot include picks acquired from another team.
-- Under the CBA, the largest contract Stamkos can be offered is $12.86 million per season — or 20% of the cap.
Talking to a handful of NHL executives on Wednesday, none thought any owners or GMs would go that high on an offer sheet.
Still, given how Stamkos, 21, already is a superstar, why wouldn’t the likes of Brian Burke and Paul Holmgren look into the possibility?
Those around the Lightning feel the deal with Tampa will get done either before or after July 1. Either way, they insist Stamkos is not going anywhere.
THE SABRE DANCE
The frugal days of the Buffalo Sabres are long gone.
Just one day after acquiring the rights to defenceman Christian Ehrhoff for a fourth-round pick, the Islanders shipped his rights to the Sabres for a fourth-rounder on Wednesday night.
Because Ehrhoff becomes an unrestricted free agent on Friday, the Islanders obviously discovered his asking price was too rich for their blood. The Sabres, on the other hand, must feel they have a shot at signing him before Friday.
It’s just another sign that new owner Terry Pegula is serious about spending in order to ice a winner.
Imagine a Sabres defence with Ehrhoff, newcomer Robyn Regehr and Tyler Myers? If coach Lindy Ruff opts to pair the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Regehr with 6-foot-8, 227-pound Myers, it will form arguably the most physically intimidating shutdowm tandem in hockey.
And could the Sabres be one of the surprise players in the Brad Richards sweepstakes come Friday? Given Pegula’s commitment to winning, nothing should come as a shock.
When Ruff, Pegula and his wife Kim went up to northern Saskatchewan to convince Regehr to waive his no-trade clause last weekend, it showed just how far ownership in Buffalo will go to produce a winner. The fact that Regehr had already agreed to the deal while the Buffalo trio was en route did not dampen how impressed the veteran defenceman was at the lengths the Buffalo hierarchy went to to show how much they wanted him.
DRURY CUT LOOSE
By buying out out the final season of Chris Drury’s five-year, $35.5-million deal, the Rangers have opened up an additional $3,333,333 against the 2011-12 salary cap.
In other words, more flexibility to work with in their pursuit of Richards come Friday.
Drury’s buyout will create a hit of $1,666,667 against the cap in 2012-13, but the Rangers will deal with that issue when the time comes.
Published reports suggest Boston and Buffalo might be potential landing spots for Drury, who now becomes a free agent. Going back to Buffalo, where he once captained the Sabres, would be a welcomed veteran presence for the Sabres, much in the same way that Regehr’s addition will be.
GOING OUT SWINGING
Good on Paul Kariya for ripping into the NHL for not being harsh enough against head shots and illegal hits.
While there has been so much public outcry concerning the blows that caused Sidney Crosby to miss the second half of the season, Kariya’s career was been plagued by such incidents, so much so that he had almost become an afterthought up to the time of his retirement announcement on Wednesday.
A 15-year career in which he scored 989 points in 989 games was tarnished by a series of concussions, stripping fans of seeing one of the most naturally talented players in the game.
Maybe Kariya’s suggestion that coaches, GMs and owners be punished for such illegal hits delivered by one of their players might sound outlandish to some. But when you think about it, it’s not such a far-fetched notion.
After all, a league with Crosby and Kariya is better than a league without them.