Eight years ago was a much hyped and questionable era for the Tampa Bay Lightning with thanks to the transfer of ownership from Palace Sports and Entertainment to OK Hockey Group. There was the hype surrounding Vincent Lecavalier's gargantuan contract extension, the hiring of Barry Melrose (who'd gotten plenty of exposure by way of broadcasting) to replace John Tortorella, and the attention and press that the likes of Len Barrie and Oren Koules kept getting their hands on with other transactions.
The notable one, long term, for the Lightning was the #1 overall draft selection in the 2008 NHL entry draft and the man of the slot: Mister Steven Stamkos.
As a blogger, I was running the site that preceded Raw Charge at the time and barely participating because I was distracted by the US Presidential election and volunteering in local campaigns as well (Side note/PSA: No politics in comments on the site, please? ‘K, thanks). I was also disenchanted with where the Lightning was going with transactions. The drafting of Stamkos to such a stocked organization - one that was stunted in 2007-08 in part due to the team sale - was notable. How Stammer was brought along to start his foray in pro hockey was also notable in the not-ready-for-prime-time sense. It got better, and he lived up to the expectations of the league as time passed. Steven Stamkos' start on the team with the likes of Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Vinny Prospal, Mark Recchi, Ryan Malone and even Chris Gratton, just added weight to the lead-in for his career (at least in perception of the time). The greats of the franchise at-the-moment and in longevity surrounded him.
As things stand, we're on the cusp of the 2016 NHL draft as well as on the edge of unrestricted free agency. We're at the point where there's a chance Stamkos hits the free agent market, going to where he's paid best for a fresh start and the opportunity it provides him as a player. Perhaps there's a chance Stamkos appends his no-movement clause of his soon-to-expire contract and gets traded so he can sign the most beneficial and optimal deal with a specific club (the one that controls his rights before unrestricted free agency begins).
Steve Yzerman spoke to Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times on Monday to discuss the situation, and while he is talking to Stamkos and Don Meehan, his negotiating window is closing:
"At some point on other players, I have to make decisions, whether it'd be restricted free agents, or potential trades or qualifying offers and things like that. I've got to make decisions and they can't be put off forever."
That comment isn't the one highlighted by others I've crossed online, it's just been one-liners and Stamkos specifically related stuff. This is Stamkos related specifics in that it affects the general welfare and future of the Tampa Bay Lightning. There's only so much salary cap space and only so much that can be spent... Moves by way of retention or even separation are going to have to be made.
As it stands, Stamkos is 4th all time on the Tampa Bay Lightning in games played (behind Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, and Pavel Kubina while jutd ahead of Brad Richards by 17 games played) with 569 games. Stamkos is 3rd all-time in point (562), 3rd all time in goals (312) and 4th all-time in assists (250). He is among the men tied in name and glory to their days with the Bolts... But only one of them (Lecavalier) is marked in team history with a mega-contract from a deal offered by an impulsive-but-inept ownership group that lasted all of 2 years. That deal and its lump-sum may have led to charity and goodwill from Lecavalier and his representatives, but it only lasted 5 fiscal years before the deal was ceased.
The one thing that the Stamkos situation stresses is the importance of depth. It is an importance bred by the ripple effect of costs. Resigning Steven Stamkos is the largest of players in this ripple - to retain him at a grand cost will likely cost the franchise talent in one way or another in the immediate future. To lose Stamkos does not solve this; it shifts the ripple down the line. It's the cold business of the sport that costs matter and being able to afford costs on singular players forces the hand on the retention or relinquishing of other guys in the organization.
To put it short, it costs you to lose a guy or sign a guy. The restrictions created by way of a salary cap make it more profound though.
Unrestricted free agency hits next Friday, 10 days from now. This could play out as Stamkos' last week as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning or perhaps the gateway to his retention. With or without Stamkos, it's a season of change for the Tampa Bay Lightning. It doesn't mean tectonic shifts and rebuilding are at play, but a ripple will pass through in one way or another with a long-lasting affect.
So why in the hell did I bring up 2008? It's because there's a lack of coverage in the site archives of Stamkos' addition to the Tampa Bay Lightning, or other moves made at the time... It sort of compliments the lack of remarks in the moment that may spell Stammer's end in Tampa. We, Raw Charge, haven't been talking about this much and what narrative keeps playing out are things we've touched on the past few years when we have covered on Stamkos' future and his would-be suitors. We've been silent. Just not as silent as I was the summer of 2008.