The NHL 15: Steven Stamkos and his Tampa Bay Future
Taking a look at 15 of the most interesting and fascinating players before the start of the 2023-24 NHL season.
As we approach the start of the 2023-24 NHL season I am going to take a look at 15 players worth paying attention to this season for one reason or another.
These are not necessarily the best players. Some of them might be, but others might be more obscure. This not a ranking of any kind. It is simply a look at players that I think have some kind of interesting storyline to watch or could have a major impact on the NHL this season.
We start today with Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos. Is time running out for him in Tampa Bay?
There are two things that always stand out to me about how the Tampa Bay Lightning build their roster.
The first is that they seem to operate in an alternate league (or alternate reality) where the salary cap is never an issue. They always keep home-grown players on big deals, they are always extremely active at the trade deadline, and they always massage the salary cap numbers in a way that gives them maximum flexibility. Nobody is better at it than them.
The second is that for the past six or seven years they have aggressively re-signed the players they want to keep as soon as they possibly can.
Under the current CBA, teams are not allowed to sign a player to a long-term contract extension until that player enters the final year of their contract.
That begins on the first day of the free agent signing period before that season begins.
A quick stroll through recent years of Lightning transactions reveals that they tend to operate very quickly in getting the players they want to keep under contract.
This offseason Brandon Hagel got a new long-term deal on August 22.
A year ago they re-signed Anthony Cirelli, Erik Cernak and Mikhail Sergachev to eight-year contracts on July 13 (all on the same day).
The year before that Brayden Point got an eight-year deal in mid-July before he entered the final year of his deal.
Starting goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy got his contract extension on July 29, 2019.
Superstar winger Nikita Kucherov got his deal on July 10, 2018.
Defenseman Victor Hedman got his contract on July 1, 2016.
Notice a trend?
Almost all of those deals were signed well before the start of the season, and in most cases they were signed as soon as possible in that offseason.
The only long-term deal on the team that is an exception to that was the long-term contract signed by Nick Paul, but that is an apples-to-oranges comparison because he was acquired as a rental player at that year’s trade deadline. They did not have a chance to sign him to his new deal at the start of the season.
In the other cases there was no waiting, there was no lingering, there was no patience, and there was no carryover to the regular season.
Players that did not get signed before the start of the regular season (Ondrej Palat, Alex Killorn, Blake Coleman, Barclay Goodrow, etc.) were not retained and allowed to leave in free agency. They were either viewed as expendable, not worth the money they were seeking, or were simply salary cap cuts.
That brings us Stamkos.
The long-time Lightning captain — and arguably the biggest star the franchise has ever had — is not only entering the final year of his contract, there has been no sign of a new deal on the horizon.
Perhaps even more notable was the way general manager Julien BriseBois talked about the situation this past week. It all seemed very …. weird.
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