Despite having re-signed his contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning in late June, killing any chance that Steven Stamkos would be a Maple Leaf, that storyline of the speculation that he could go back to his hometown of Toronto has been resurrected in the news twice this week. Hooray.
First there was the great public service “reporting” by the Toronto Sun, which used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain emails from Toronto Mayor John Tory’s office, “uncovering” the “news” that Tory knew Stamkos would return to the Lightning before the media got wind of it.
Hearing it from Stamkos (to be clear: He was not specifically asked about the Sun/Tory), usually the agreement to sign a contract is in place, and it’s only a matter of time before someone tells Bob McKenzie, in Stamkos’ case. So yeah, it’s not a surprise that Tory, who was part of the Leafs’ in-person pitch to Stamkos, was told ahead of time so that he didn’t have to find out in frenzied fashion like the rest of did.
Then on Tuesday, on the Marek vs. Wyshynski podcast, about 48 minutes in, Jeff Marek begins with “You know what I heard...” and went on to say that during the time Stamkos was entertaining the presence of other teams, the magical number was $14 million.
“I think the thought is if it’s 8 1/2 in Tampa, it’s 14 in Toronto when you factor in the tax. You can either hit it or not,” Marek said. To which Greg Wyshynski said, “It’s ‘give me all the monies and make it work.’”
Stamkos (apparently, since this is all speculation) wanted the maximum contract that’s allowed under the CBA. He was basically telling the Leafs “ride or die with me,” to which the Leafs (supposedly... remember?) said kthnxbye.
When it comes to either party, it makes sense. If you’re Stamkos, why would you leave the Lightning for anything less than a max contract, especially for a team that’s essentially been in rebuilding mode for the last 49 years? And if you’re the Leafs — hell, any team in the league — why would you pay anyone the max contract, which is pretty much 20% of your cap space?
It just another reminder that not every kid from the Toronto area is willing to go to Toronto — and do so at some nonexistent “hometown discount.”
Whether this speculation is actually true is a different story. In Elliotte Friedman’s detailed account of the day when Stamkos re-signed with the Lightning, he doesn’t mention this $14 million figure. If it were true, I feel like Friedman would have known about it. Friedman’s story — not just Stamkos’ portion — has exhaustive accounts from a variety of sources that shed light on the inner workings of the day.
In continuing to playing devil’s advocate, it could be someone whispering that number to people to spin the story so Stamkos might look bad. Because like we said, what NHL team would give up that big of a contract? By putting this number out there, Leafs fans can sleep well knowing that their hometown boy asked for way too much. I mean, shouldn’t he just want to play in Toronto and fulfill his childhood dreams?
We’ll never know. At least not in the near future. And with that, I hope to never write another Stamkos-Toronto possibility ever again.
Besides, in the words of the Toronto Sun itself, published June 28:
No actual salary negotiations are allowed to take place.
So that $14 million is more of a pipe dream than a reality.