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The complexities and costs of a Steven Stamkos trade

Engineering a trade of Steven Stamkos is more difficult than it looks on the surface.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

At first, this was going to be a reply to a comment in the game thread the other night about trading Steven Stamkos. As I start writing it, I started to realize how much more involved this is and that it really deserves to be a full blown article for everyone to see.

I am in no way advocating for trading Stamkos and I want the readers to realize how much would go into finding a trade partner to take him. That’s also assuming he waives his No Movement Clause to accept a trade. I want him to sign long term, I want him to stay in Tampa, and Tampa would be better over the next 8 years with Steven Stamkos as the Captain of this team. With that said, this article is going to be a little more casual than normal and perhaps a bit more on the stream of consciousness side. So please bear with me as we go on a wild ride.

First, yes... 30 out of 30 NHL, 28 out of 28 KHL teams, 14 out of 14 SHL teams, 15 out of 15 Liiga teams, 1,000,000 out of 1,000,000 beer league teams and etc, etc, etc, would like to have Steven Stamkos on their roster. That doesn't mean that every club could afford his cap hit or bear the assets to acquire him in trade, especially at a time when teams are being much more cognizant of the value of prospects and young players and bringing them along on cheap contracts. Teams are less inclined to trade long term assets for rentals.

There are 186 league days, meaning that Stamkos’ salary cap hit is about $40,300 per day on the roster. I don't have the exact count, but roughly 30 league days have passed this season. Let's just say he sticks around for another few weeks and get's traded 60 days into the season. That'll mean his cap hit to his new team will be roughly $5 million for the rest of 2015-16. Without taking any salary back in the deal, that leaves us with the New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs, Florida Panthers, Ottawa Senators, Anaheim Ducks, Carolina Hurricanes, Buffalo Sabres, Colorado Avalanche, New Jersey Devils, Nashville Predators, Arizona Coyotes, and Winnipeg Jets as your available teams with cap space currently. Realistically, Florida, Ottawa, Anaheim, Nashville, and Winnipeg are the only teams in the playoff hunt that could really use Stamkos. If you wait until closer to the deadline, that'll open up more teams that are available because his cap hit gets smaller and more clubs would be able to afford it later.

Of course, if you're willing to take a contract back, then that opens up pretty much everyone. The trick here is that often when some is willing to move salary back, it's because they have a bad contract. The other thing to consider is that all of those teams with cap space, with the exception of perhaps Toronto, are almost certainly already at their "internal" cap, meaning that they’re at the max of their budgetary constraints.

Now, it's hard to find trades for players that are of the same caliber as Steven Stamkos. It just doesn’t happen very often. The closest player recently was the ageless Jaromir Jagr being traded by New Jersey to Florida last season. Florida gave up a second and third round pick. Jagr is in the twilight of his career, not the player he was in his prime when he was putting up over 100 points a season.

Stamkos is just now entering the prime of his career, he remains at an age a franchise would retool or rebuild around him as a central figure. Any and all teams who could possibly attempt to acquire Stamkos wouldn't likely do it for a final piece of the puzzle in a playoff push, but with the intention of a long-term commitment.

Yet those contract-year deals are the most comparable - players traded from non-contenders to contending teams as a last minute boost. Let's look some of the bigger trades made over the past few seasons of high-caliber players near or at the end of their contract, to get a gauge of valuel.

Pittsburgh Penguins acquired Jarome Iginla from Calgary Flames for Kenneth Agostino, Ben Hanowski, and a 2013 first round pick during the 2012-13 season

Iginla is a good comparison for Stamkos. Iggy was and has been a point-per-game player for almost his entire career. Agostino and Hanowski were both NCAA players and have yet to really break out at the NHL level, but are still decent prospects and nice pieces at the time, so call them B+ assets and the 2013 first round pick an A asset. That’s one A-quality asset and two B+ assets for 3 months of Iginla.

New York Rangers acquire Rick Nash, Steve Delisle and a conditional third round pick from Columbus Blue Jackets for Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon, and a first round pick prior to the 2012-13 season

This one’s a bit of a wallop. Rick Nash is obviously a talented goal scorer that has been pretty good for New York and is one of the closer comparables to Stamkos. Steve Delisle was a throw in and the conditional third round pick triggered when they didn’t make the Stanley Cup Finals. On the other side of the deal, Columbus got quite the haul. Brandon Dubinsky, while not as talented as Nash, is still a solid roster player in his prime that has provided solid offense. Anisimov is also a good roster player that had been producing about half a point per game for New York and mostly continued that production for Columbus before being traded to the Blackhawks in the Brandon Saad deal. Erixon was a decent defensive prospect but hasn’t translated his game to the NHL. So call Dubinsky an A- asset, Anisimov a B+ asset, Erixon a B prospect and the first round pick as an A asset. Another deal with multiple good assets.

New York Rangers acquire Martin St. Louis and a second round pick from Tampa Bay for Ryan Callahan, two first round picks, and (later) Daniel Walcott during the 2013-14 season

I won’t rehash this one too much because we know how this one went. But, Tampa Bay got a rental of a good roster player (who was eventually signed by the club) and ultimately two first round picks and Daniel Walcott (obtained from the Rangers in the summer of 2015 for a 7th round pick they gave up in the initial deal – a conditional pick produced by signing Callahan). That’s two grade-A assets, a A- and a C prospect for a year plus of Marty and a second round pick; a B asset.

Los Angeles Kings acquires Marian Gaborik from Columbus for Matt Frattin and two second round picks during the 2013-14 season

Frattin isn’t much to write home about and Columbus traded him to Toronto in the offseason for very little and doesn’t really factor into the trade. Call the two second round picks B assets as second rounders are generally expected to have decent NHL careers. Gaborik was a player that was perhaps already seeing the decline of old age, though at one time he had been a very good player in the league. This isn’t as close of a match to Steven Stamkos, but still required two decent assets to acquire him as a rental. I should also note that Lightning GM Steve Yzerman got two second round picks last season for Brett Connolly. Gaborik, while older and a pending UFA, is definitely a better player than Connolly. It tells you what Yzerman is capable of in a deal.

Pittsburgh acquire David Perron from Edmonton Oilers for Rob Klinkhammer and a first round pick during the 2014-15 season

Perron is a decent offensive player and had some term left on his contract, but he’s only broken 25 goals once in his career and 50 points twice. Klinkhammer was a complementary player with minimal value. The real value came from the first round pick. That’s still an A asset for an average to slightly above average NHL player.

Nashville acquires Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli from Toronto for Olli Jokinen, Brendan Leipsic and a first round pick during the 2014-15 season

This one isn’t apples-to-apples because Franson is a defenseman, but it still demonstrates some of the valuations that come from these kind of trades. Franson is a top-4 defenseman and had some good value. He came with a fourth line player in Santorelli. Meanwhile, Jokinen was also a bottom line guy and was moved more for roster space than anything with Santorelli being his replacement. Leipsic is a decent looking prospect that scored a lot in juniors but is still trying to put it together in the pros. Leipsic is also at the tail end of the Top 100 prospects in the NHL. Then add the first round pick. Santorelli and Jokinen were basically a swap by themselves, so call it a B+ prospect and an A asset for Cody Franson.

Los Angeles acquires Andrej Sekera from Carolina for a conditional first round pick and Roland McKeown during the 2014-15 season

Wow, this one looks a lot worse now than it already did when it happened. Again, we’re looking at a defenseman but it’s still relevant. Roland McKeown was a first-round pick in 2014 and still looks like a very good defenseman in the making, plus that first round pick. That’s two A assets for ultimately 16 games of Andrej Sekera as the Kings missed

New York Rangers acquire Keith Yandle, Chris Summers, and a fourth round pick from Arizona for Anthony Duclair, John Moore, a first and second round pick during the 2014-15 season

Again we’re talking about a defenseman, but the haul that Arizona got was pretty nice. It’s also worth mentioning that Arizona retained half of Yandle’s salary to get a better return since they had the cap and salary budget to do so. Anthony Duclair has looked like a pretty good NHL player so far this year. John Moore was a throw in, same as Chris Summers and the fourth round pick. Arizona got two A assets and a B asset, and a roster player for Yandle, a roster player, and a C-grade draft pick.

While the defensemen who were traded at last year’s deadline aren’t a perfect comparison, it still should give you an idea of how teams have valued those kinds of scarce commodities even when they amount to three month rentals. Steven Stamkos is an All World talent. Looking at this past history, it seems to me that it would take at least two grade-A assets and a grade B asset to get Stamkos at the trade deadline. It may even need to be more than that, especially earlier in the season, or if the Lightning willingly retain some salary or take back a contract.

To put it in perspective for Lightning fans to ponder,  if the Lightning were looking to acquire a high-caliber star such as Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jonathan Toews, Ryan Getzlaf or Anze Kopitar, would you be happy giving up one of these example packages (and likely more) to obtain what may amount to be simply a rental?

· Anthony DeAngelo, 2016 first round, 2016 second round

· Adam Erne, 2016 first round, 2017 second round

· Brayden Point, 2016 first round, 2016 third round

· Andrei Vasilevskiy, 2016 first round

Now do you think teams interested in acquiring Stamkos in a short term deal want to give up a comparable package, if not more? I’m sure a lot of other clubs would be looking at packages involving their top prospects for Stamkos and having the same reaction that many of you are having right now.

It’s easy to say "just trade him" but there is so much more to it that is completely out of the Lightning’s control. You don’t want to give him away because that would create just as much backlash. At the same time, the team has to get what they feel he’s worth and if other clubs don’t agree with that valuation or can’t stomach paying up for him, a trade isn’t going to happen.

Of course all of this is still predicated on Stamkos waiving his No Movement Clause to facilitate a trade. If he doesn’t do that, he’s going nowhere until July 1st.

I think a contract will get signed. I have faith that Stamkos wants to stay here and that Yzerman and the organization want the same thing. In the meantime, let’s cool the jets about trade speculation on Stamkos. There’s still a lot of hockey left to be played and a lot of negotiation left to be done before a trade or signing of Stamkos come to pass.