As the Lightning make plans for the 20-21 NHL season, many tough decisions will need to be made regarding the roster’s composition for the upcoming season.
The Lightning are in salary cap hell as they have 15 players under contract and are still looking to ink Erik Cernak and Anthony Cirelli to new deals.
The Lightning are approximately $2 million over the salary cap as training camp approaches.
The Lightning put Tyler Johnson and his $5 million salary on waivers in October, but no one took the bait. For now, Johnson remains a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
One player that no one has talked about trading is Steven Stamkos.
On the surface, this seems like a dumb idea. Let’s begin to break it down.
Stamkos played 2:47 in the 2019-20 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He contributed one goal in the game four win against the Dallas Stars in the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Lightning did not need Stamkos to win the cup. They were able to win the cup with Kucherov, Maroon, Hedman, Sergachev, Palat, and Braydon Point and the cast of role players that had assembled.
Stamkos is 30 years old and has been in the league for 12 years. His body is starting to break down. It seems every year, Stamkos has a nagging injury that sidelines home for an indefinite period.
He is currently rehabbing from off-season surgery related to the groin injury that plagued him during the playoffs. There is no guarantee that Stamkos will be 100 percent and be ready for the start of the season.
Stamkos has missed 158 games since the 2013-14 season.
In 2013 Stamkos broke his right leg missing 46 games. In 2016, Stamkos had surgery for a blood clot missing 21 games.
In 2016-17, Stamkos missed 65 games after he tore the lateral meniscus in his right knee.
In March of 2020, Stamkos had surgery for a muscle injury. He then suffered a leg injury during rehab, causing him to miss 26 of 27 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Stamkos had another surgery in October of 2020. Word is he should be ready to go for the start of the 20-21 season in January, but who knows. We’ve heard this before.
If Stamkos were to retire now, he would go down as one of the best players in Lightning history. He is not a lock for the Hall of Fame yet, but a couple of solid seasons will get him a plaque in Toronto.
Stamkos is eighth among active players with 422 goals.
The Lightning are over the salary cap by approximately $2 million. Stamko’s salary is $8.5 million a season, and that is money that could be used to sign Cernak and Cirelli to long-term deals.
Stamkos is signed for four more years at $8.5 million per year.
The Lightning would miss his presence and leadership in the locker room.
But with the likes of Maroon, Hedman, and McDonough, there would be no shortage of players ready to step into that leadership role.
It’s never easy to part with a talent like Stamkos. He is a fan favorite and one of the best players in Lightning history.
But there is nothing worse than hanging on to a player past his prime for sentimental reasons.
It was difficult for Lightning fans to say goodbye to Vincent Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis. In hindsight, those decisions, although painful at the time, proved to be the right call.
The Lightning would have to move additional players to get the cap to a manageable number in the coming years.
In addition to Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn, Yanni Gourde, Blake Colemen, and Barclay Goodrow have also had their names tossed around as players the Lightning could move.
Stamkos seems the most logical to move. The Lightning has proven they can win without him in the lineup.
It’s time for the Lightning to continue to plan for the future while making sure that the roster is built in a way that gives them the best chance to make deep playoffs runs in the years ahead.
Parting with Stamkos would give them the salary cap relief needed for the upcoming season and ensure that Cirelli and Cernak are in Tampa for the long term.