Could disgruntled Tampa Lightning captain Steven Stamkos wind up playing for the Boston Bruins this season or next?
When Stamkos was in the unrestricted free agency negotiating window in 2016, the Boston Bruins were one of the teams that came knocking to see if they could pry him away from Tampa Bay. Numerous reports claimed that the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings were the leading contenders for Stamkos if he chose to leave, but more than one source said that Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney made a serious push for Stamkos.
From the sounds of it, the NHL betting odds are good that Sweeney would do so again. Sweeney was ready to, in the famous words of former Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas that same summer, ‘Back up the Brinks truck’ for Stamkos.
“Sweeney pushed hard for Stamkos that year and two years later for Tavares,” an NHL executive source recalled to Boston Hockey Now on Sunday. “If he becomes available on the trade market, I can’t see how Sweeney doesn’t at least try to get him.”
With the Boston Bruins losing their top two centers this past offseason, the Bruins continue to be linked to centers reportedly on the NHL trade market. One of those centers, Mark Scheifele, is off the market now after signing a seven-year, $59.5 million ($8.5M AAV) contract last week. Calgary Flames center Elias Lindholm remains unsigned, but there’s been chatter that he, too, may bypass free agency and stay with the Flames, and I’d advise any NHL betting folks not to bet on Lindholm being dealt at this point. Stamkos is a natural center, but he has played wing for a while now.
Last month, Stamkos made it clear that he was not happy with the fact that the team he had given his heart and soul to, on and off the ice, had not initiated any talks on a contract extension for him.
“To be honest, I’ve been disappointed in the lack of talk in that regard. It was something that I expressed at the end of last year — that I wanted to get something done before training camp started. There haven’t been any conversations,” Stamkos told the media on September 20. “I’m ready whenever. I guess that was something that I didn’t see coming. But it is what it is.”
Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois’ response to that was not what Stamkos was hoping for but rather just a hard dose of reality in the salary cap world, even with the cap expected to rise to $87.7 million next season.
“I need to see how the pieces of the puzzle fit this year. I need to see who steps up and is ready to handle a bigger role. I need to see how the team performs,” BriseBois said when asked about Stamkos’ comments. “I need to see how this season plays out before I make those decisions. After the season, once I’ve gathered that information, I can work with Steven and his agent on a contract structure that will be in the best interest of both sides.”
So, by all accounts, for the second time in his illustrious career, the 33-year-old future Hall of Famer and two-time Stanley Cup champion is set to become an unrestricted free agent next July. Will the Bruins come knocking on the NHL trade market if he becomes available, or will they do so if and when Stamkos becomes an unrestricted free agent?