Steven Stamkos is going to be an unrestricted free agent after this 2015-2016 season and there are rumors that the Tampa Bay Lightning might be looking to move him if they can’t lock him up to a long term extension.  There was even a rumor back in the summer that Stamkos was available before the recent 2015 draft.

Are the Lightning serious about this?  Would they really trade the face of their franchise? These are the same Lightning that bought out a declining Vinny Lecavalier and traded his sidekick Marty St. Louis.  In the words of Kevin Garnett, “anything is possible”.

What could the Lightning expect to get in return for Stamkos?  I would have to assume the conversation would start with no less than two 1st round draft picks.  Typically when a team trades a star player for picks and prospects the team receiving the best player wins the trade.  You can look no further than the Tyler Seguin trade.

I get what the Lightning are thinking.  They would probably prefer not to spend to the cap like some of the bigger market teams and they have a lot of players that are going to need new contracts.  Over the next two years the Lightning have 9 key players that will be either unrestricted free agents (UFA) or restricted free agents (RFA).  After the upcoming 2015-2016 season only Stamkos will be a UFA, but Alex Killorn, Nikita Kucherov and Cedric Paquette will be RFA’s.  After the 2016 -2017 season Ben Bishop and Victor Hedman will be UFA’s and Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Jonathan Drouin will be RFA’s.

If you look at all the successful teams in the NHL in the past decade they have built their teams with depth down the middle, a stud defenseman, and a good goalie.  With that being said, I would prioritize Stamkos and Hedman.  Ben Bishop’s current cap hit is almost $6 million but the Lightning have the one of the best goalie prospects in the game in Andrei Vasilevskiy and I expect he will emerge as the starting tender sooner than later.  The only problem is Vasilevskiy is going to miss the beginning of this season due to blood clots.  If it really came down to it and the Lightning needed to trade Stamkos because of salary cap reasons I would think they would look to move Ryan Callahan and his $5.8 million salary cap hit first.

Steven Stamkos scored 43 goals last year and he is still only 25 years old so there is plenty of that left in the tank.  He is going to want a Jonathan Toews type contract at $10.5 million cap hit and a team like his hometown Maple Leafs will be drooling to cut that check for him.  But Stamkos is not Toews, and I would assume the cap hit for a new contract would be a little less.  Maybe $9 to $9.5 million per year.  Stamkos’ cap hit is already $7.5 million, so he will get a raise but not a huge one.  Also, remember the state of Florida does not have income tax, so a $8.5 million a year contract is a little closer to the $10.5 that Toews signed.  Tampa can also offer him the extra year (8) to the term that other teams can’t should for some ridiculous reason the Lightning let him hit free agency.

Say what you want about Stamkos and how much you should really pay one player in a cap era NHL but the kid can flat out shoot the puck like no other.  If the Lightning trade Stamkos they will no longer be the favorite to come out of the East to play for the Stanley Cup.  The Lightning would take a step back.   And I am not sure if they would recover from a trade like this and continue to be a Stanley Cup contender.  Is Tyler Johnson a number 1 center?  Is Valtteri Filppula a number one center?  No.  Regardless if Stamkos plays the wing or center the Lightning would be crazy to trade him and I don’t think they will.  He’s likely a Lightning for life.