As the Stanley Cup playoffs are winding down, one team has been a pleasant surprise: The Tampa Bay Lightning. As the reigning Eastern Conference champions, their deep playoff run may be no surprise to hockey fans, but it is when you consider the circumstances. That’s because the Bolt’s post-season success has been done all without their captain, Steven Stamkos.
On April 4th, the center man had surgery to treat a type of Vascular Thoracic Syndrome near his right shoulder and was given a 1-3 month recovery period. While there have been glimmers of hope and whispers of a return to the ice, the four-time all-star has yet to lace up the skates for the Lightning this postseason.
This comes at a very interesting time for Stamkos, as he is a pending free agent with the offseason just weeks away. As one of the elite goal scorers in the game, the former #1 overall pick is poised to cash in in a big way; the only question is: with who? With Tampa Bay surging in these playoffs without him, it would not be a surprise if they focused their expenses on a multitude of younger players, rather than just one.
When a player of Stamkos’ caliber hits the market, the majority of the league will inquire. It is not every year that you can add a player that will perennially be atop the league leaders in goals scored. Teams that are desperate for offense will go all in for #91, and one of those teams is our very own Boston Bruins.
If you have followed the Bruins at all recently, you know the team is dying for a player who can consistently put the puck in the net. Brad Marchand seems to have flipped the switch as a legitimate playmaker and Patrice Bergeron continues to be Patrice Bergeron, but the offensive firepower doesn’t go much beyond that. While Loui Eriksson did net an impressive 30 goals last season, he too is a free agent, and it is a near certainty another team will be willing to pay him more than the Bruin’s will.
As in every sport aside from baseball, obtaining marquis free agents often comes down to financial restrictions. You can only afford the players that your salary cap allows you to do so. Looking at the Bruin’s current financial situation, there is indeed room for Stamkos, but it’s not looking pretty.
Currently, the B’s have $48 million committed to 12 players. With 24 million to spend and eight players needed to fill out the roster, you come to an average of about 3 million per player. This, obviously, would not work for Stamkos.
Recently, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane signed matching contracts, in which each would account for an annual $10.5 million salary cap hit, the highest in the NHL. Given his age (25) and well-documented track record, Stamkos is a near shoe-in to surpass the Blackhawks duo, expected to rake in at least $11-12 million per year.
With $24 million in uncommitted money, the Bruins would be dishing half of this Stamkos’ way. It is also looking as if the team will bring back Torey Krug, which would account for another 3-4$ cap hit. In a nutshell, if you commit this money to these players, the rest of the roster would be needed to be filled out with entry-level players, earning $1 million or less.
Another problem the Bruin’s run into is position depth. Stamkos is an elite top line center, one of the few positions the black and gold are comfortable at. Patrice Bergeron won his third Selke Award last season, and David Krejci has been a consistent 60-70 point producing center for the organization for nearly ten years. Since it is doubtful that Stamkos, nor Krejci or Bergeron, would want to move to a wing position, something would have to give.
Though he is certainly part of the team’s core, shopping Krejci could be of great interest to the Bruins. He would absolutely have suitors, and would also free up $7 million in salary cap space. This would certainly help not only acquire Stamkos, but also other free agent as well. The only problem is, Krejci has a full no-trade clause in his contract. They would need to find a team that is not only willing to provide an appealing trade return, but also meets Krejci’s interest.
The bottom line is, maybe aside from Bergeron and Marchand, Krejci is far from the only expendable player currently on this team. While he has been the backbone of the franchise for a decade, Zdeno Chara is certainly on the tail end of his career as is fellow defenseman Dennis Seidenberg. Using these players as trade assets could help their cause in a big way.
The Bruins have what it takes to get Steven Stamkos. The money is there and they have the current resources to make that money even larger. The team is currently residing in a wasteland of mediocrity, poised to make another middle of the pack run and maybe a 7 or 8 seed in the playoffs. Adding a player like Stamkos could revitalize the franchise and give the fans something to root for. Now, they just have to go out and do it.