If there’s one hockey conversation to rule them all as we approach the Feb. 29 trade deadline, it’s the one that revolves around Steven Stamkos.
The Tampa Bay Lightning superstar is in the final year of a five-year, $37.5-million contract and staring down status as the most sought-after unrestricted free agent in recent memory. Of course, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman and Co. would like to avoid Stamkos hitting the open market.
Stamkos’s agent, Don Meehan, joined Prime Time Sports on Sportsnet 590 The Fan as a guest Wednesday to talk about the status of his client. Meehan confirmed that talks with the Lightning are ongoing but stressed there is nothing imminent.
“They’re productive. All of our discussions have been productive, they’ve been professional. Tampa understands and appreciates the fact that Steven has every right and ability to take as much time as necessary to make a decision in relation to his future. That’s really what we’re engaged in at this point in time,” Meehan told Bob McCown and John Shannon.
When asked if it was Stamkos's preference to remain with the Lightning, Meehan was guarded in his response.
"I really don't think it would be fair for me to convey what he's telling me. I can tell you this: He's a very thoughtful, very resourceful individual. He's diligent.
"He's doing what I believe every player should do in these circumstances when you're engaged in the process of committing to a long-term contract, which would be the better part of his career."
Stamkos is just 26 years old. He's a highly marketable superstar. It would be unique for a player of his calibre to hit free agency at his age, but that's not something that's necessarily factoring into his and Meehan's approach to contract talks.
"It doesn't change the process for any free agent," Meehan said.
"We have a long, long list of considerations for players like that that are going to commit to an eight-year term. Then there are many personal issues, there are many professional issues, there are many economic issues.
"To do this right, to do justice to the whole process, everyone should take as much as time as necessary to review all these considerations so that when the decision is made you won't have any regrets."
The Lightning is the only team that can offer Stamkos an eighth year of term. Take that for what's it's worth.
Another issue that's generated much public discussion ahead of any potential Stamkos sweepstakes is the one about income tax. Four U.S.-based teams operate in states without income tax, including the Lightning. It's something, but hardly the most important, according to Meehan.
"It's just one of many considerations. From Steven's point of view, he's not the kind of individual that would be saying to us, 'I have a priority consideration here, and it's only money.' That wouldn't be Steven Stamkos at all," Meehan said.
Tampa finds itself in situation where it's coming off a trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 2015. The team has picked up its play since the calendar flipped to 2016, looking again like the Cup contender many figured it to be. With the trade deadline drawing near, Yzerman could be forced to make a difficult decision on Stamkos.
Is the trade deadline factoring into contract discussions between the Lightning and Stamkos? Meehan intimated that it's his client who holds the leverage on Feb. 29.
"It's a sensitive issue. It's a self-evident issue," he said. "Beyond the trade deadline there's no possibility to move the player or move the asset. He has a no-move provision in his contract."
Stamkos leads the Lightning in goal scoring with 21 and sits second in points behind Nikita Kucherov with 40. Tampa sits in third place in the Atlantic Division with a 29-20-4 record.