If — and that is a capital IF — Steven Stamkos re-signs with the Tampa Bay Lightning for between $7-7.5 million a season, will that cripple his team’s chances to win?
Those are the numbers I am hearing it will take to get a deal done between the two parties. Of course, there is still plenty of negotiating to be done between now and July 1 when the young scoring ace, who recorded 96 goals in the past two years, can become a restricted free agent.
If the Lightning was to pay Stamkos $7.5 million a year, it would mean their top three paid players, assuming nobody comes in higher, would be paid a total of $23 million next season. Vinny Lecavalier is scheduled to earn $10 million while Martin St. Louis and Ryan Malone will be paid $5.5 million apiece.
The $23 million is a little more than the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins paid their three highest earners this past season. Captain Zdeno Chara made $7.5 million; Marc Savard (who missed most of the year and all the playoffs with a concussion) made $7 million and goalie Tim Thomas took home $6 million (minus taxes, of course).
The year before, when the Chicago Blackhawks won the Cup, their top three paid players earned a total of $20.67 and in 2008-09 when Pittsburgh won the Cup, its top three players earned $18.75 million.
At this stage, it is still speculation as to whether Stamkos will re-sign with Tampa Bay, although my sources say he will, or accept an offer sheet that would probably be significantly more than what I am hearing will get a deal done with the Lightning.
The point is, if he signs for $7.5 million, it would not financially cripple the Lightning’s attempt to win the Cup based on what winning teams have spent the past few years — especially with the salary cap continuing to rise.