Just when we all assumed Steven Stamkos was headed north to Toronto, the unthinkable happened. And by that I mean the most blatantly obvious signing of the summer.
Stamkos has re-signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning, inking a five-year deal worth $37.5 million with an annual cap hit of $7.5 million, according to Craig Custance of The Sporting News.
Tampa GM Steve Yzerman negotiated a very manageable and surprisingly reasonable cap hit for a player of Stamkos’ calibre. A year after tying Sidney Crosby for the Rocket Richard Trophy with 51 goals, Stamkos scored 45 times this year, which was good enough for second in the overall scoring standings behind only Corey Perry. Even with his elite status and his anticipation for a major pay day–which he received–there are still eight players in the league with an equal or greater cap hit.
The market deemed Stamkos’ value to be on the same level as an injury-prone Marian Gaborik, and a sliding Dany Heatley, with each player also weighing in at a $7.5 million cap hit next year. The other players making a deeper dent on their club’s cap are Stamkos’ teammate Vincent Lecavalier ($7.7), Rick Nash ($7.8), Eric Staal ($8.25), Crosby ($8.7), Evgeni Malkin ($8.7), and Alex Ovechkin ($9.5). At 21 years old and after just three NHL seasons, Stamkos is the youngest player in this group, and somehow he’s also counting for only $200,000 more against the cap than Scott Gomez. I think I just threw up a little.
As a result of Yzerman’s ability to secure his superstar with a modest yearly hit, all three of Tampa’s core players (Stamkos, Lecavalier, and Martin St. Louis) are now signed to long-term deals, and the team still has $7.3 million in cap room left. The only remaining free agent is Teddy Purcell, the 25-year-old forward who scored 17 goals and 51 points this year during the first season in which he received consistent playing time at the NHL level. Like Stamkos, Purcel is an RFA who is clearly due for a raise, but Yzerman has now given himself plenty of room to accommodate that pay hike.
Now for the really important question: What the hell are we all going to do for the rest of the summer?