Not only have the Tampa Bay Lightning still not managed to re-sign their star player, Steven Stamkos, to a new contract; but they’ve practically lost one of their best young skaters in Jonathan Drouin.
Last year’s Stanley Cup finalists have bolted up to second in the Atlantic Division, but the troubles surrounding two of their most talented forwards is very concerning, especially with the trade deadline edging closer.
Potential loss of a star
The conclusion of this 2015-16 season sees captain Steven Stamkos’ five-year contract, with the Tampa Bay Lighting, come to an end. Hockey Buzz shows that he has been earning $7.5 million per year on the current deal.
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The Tampa Bay Times records that Lightning’s general manager, Steve Yzerman, claimed signing Stamkos to a new contract was their “number one priority” in the summer. The NHL has now reached the half-way point of the season, and they don’t appear to have made much progress on a new deal.
With the trade deadline drawing closer, February 29, the ‘no movement’ clause in Stamkos’ contract holds extra bearing. If Lightning want to cash in on their captain’s trade value – rather than risk him being released to the free agency at the end of the season – then they’ll need him to waive his ‘no movement’ clause.
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However, players of his calibre often do better, financially, when negotiating from the free agency.
NHL.com say that “no one has had any concrete stuff because there hasn’t been anything to talk about.” So whilst no news is good news, there’s also the worry that Tampa Bay’s primary summer goal may now be out of their reach as very little progress has been made.
If Tampa Bay want to continue to progress, and possibly win the Stanley Cup at some point in the near future, then they simply have to keep a hold of Steven Stamkos. Since being drafted first overall, in 2008, he has played 538 games and scored 535 points for the Lightning.
Here are his top ten goals – courtesy of TSN.
Future star moving away from the Bay
20-year-old Jonathan Drouin came to Tampa Bay as the third overall pick in 2013 – behind Nathan MacKinnon and Aleksandar Barkov. Last season, in his rookie campaign, he scored 32 points in 70 games whilst primarily featuring on the lower lines. Prior to sustaining injury this season, Drouin only managed to score eight points in 19 appearances.
Drouin is one of the best young forwards in the NHL right now. The left winger has incredible speed and great hockey sense; though he’s not the biggest, he has great lower body strength. Combine that with his terrific stick-handling and he becomes very difficult to dispossess when he gets going with the puck. Hockey’s Future gives him a 9/10 talent score, and claims that he’s “a wizard with the puck”.
At the 2015 All-Star competition, he blitzed the speed skating contest and set a new record for the event.
Now Lightning have suspended Jonathan Drouin without pay. According to Sportsnet, Drouin refused to play for their AHL affiliate side and has ceased all involvement with the club.
His agent, Allan Walsh, said that Drouin had been advised by Tampa Bay that a trade was nearing completion, so his client was “not willing to accept the risk” of playing in the AHL – in case he picked up an injury prior to moving team.
Tampa Bay have to make a move
It seems as though Jonathan Drouin is destined to play his career elsewhere next season, and Tampa Bay should try to cash-in on the still quite high trade value of the very talented left winger.
Concerning the Steven Stamkos situation, he is clearly a must-keep for the Lightning. Not only would they lose their star player but, as it stands, there’d also be very little chance for them to attempt to replace him – given the crop of predicted free agents per Spotrac's evaluations.