Steven Stamkos may very well become a Toronto Maple Leaf. It’s certainly possible that on July 1, 2016, Brendan Shanahan and Lou Lamoriello announce that Steven Stamkos has signed a contract for seven years at $10 million per year, to play for the Maple Leafs.
Until July 1 however, Steven Stamkos will remain a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning (unless an unlikely trade of his exclusive negotiation rights occurs.) It’s also entirely possible that he signs a contract extension with Tampa Bay. He has had great success in Florida.
Let’s just say, for discussion purposes, that the Toronto Maple Leafs (and their fans) haven’t decided whether or not they want to sign Steven Stamkos. Looking at the team holistically, from a business standpoint, hockey success perspective, and fan satisfaction point of view, what are the reasons why the Toronto Maple Leafs should sign Stamkos?
There are certainly more than a handful of reasons why Toronto should ink Stamkos as soon as possible. Just the same, there are some reasons why the Maple Leafs might be better plunking their money down elsewhere. As we can only make an educated guess about what the future will hold, some of these reasons are “two sides of the same coin,” so to speak.
In reality, the positives of signing Stamkos far outweigh any potential concerns, otherwise Tampa Bay wouldn't be so interested in re-signing the star centerman. Really, who wouldn't want him on their team? But let's look at both sides of the discussion, for the sake of fun.
Here are the Top 8 Reasons The Toronto Maple Leafs Should And 8 Reasons They Shouldn't Sign Him.
16 Should - He’s A Hometown Boy
Hailing from Markham, Ontario, Steven Stamkos would be playing close to home in the Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs certainly aren’t hurting for attendance. Still, having a local hero playing for Toronto couldn’t hurt the team. The media would just eat it up if Stamkos played for Toronto. He’d be on the front page of the Toronto Sun every other day. And as the saying goes, “there’s no such thing as bad press.”
The Toronto franchise would most certainly welcome more publicity, and bringing Stamkos home would no doubt increase the storylines available for reporting on the Maple Leafs. One of the best players around playing back at home in the capital of the hockey world? What’s not to like about that?
15 Shouldn't - It Will Break The Bank
How much is Steven Stamkos expected to earn on his next contract? His cap hit is 17th overall in the NHL as of now. It will most likely be in the top five when he inks his new contract. That means his cap hit will be near $10 million annually. That is about one-seventh of the entire team’s cap. The Leafs are projected to have just over $10 million in cap room for next season, and that’s without taking into consideration filling holes left by free agents leaving the team. How will they be able to afford Steven Stamkos? Much will need to change on the roster, and even if it does, it leaves Toronto very little room to make further acquisitions.
14 Should - Toronto Could Use The Scoring
It’s an obvious assertion, but the Maple Leafs need to put the puck in the net more often. Toronto does have some players who can score well at the NHL level. Nazem Kadri is coming along nicely and James van Riemsdyk, when healthy, can do his fair share of scoring. But Stamkos is a sniper on another level. Over the past five regular seasons, only Alexander Ovechkin has scored more goals than Stamkos. Could Toronto use that kind of production? They sure could.
Stamkos immediately becomes the number one center on the Maple Leafs if he joins the team, and the team’s goal differential almost instantly increases.
13 Shouldn't - It's Not About One Player
Hockey, especially at the highest professional level, is a collaborative sport. A group of players combining to put the puck in the net and prevent it from entering their own. It all comes back to the team and coaching. If you have a great team and coach, you can win it all. Toronto already opened their vault to land the great coach in Mike Babcock. One great offensive player doesn't make the full team.
Stamkos would certainly be, and is, part of a very good overall team. He is one great player, as a part of that group. The last Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup was the Montreal Canadiens in 1993. That was a pretty good overall team. Their biggest star was the one in net: Patrick Roy.
12 Should - He Can Handle The Spotlight
Sure, the Maple Leafs could go after another scorer. But would that player be able to handle the spotlight that comes with playing in Toronto? Steven Stamkos can. He grew up in the Toronto area, accustomed to the volume of media which surrounds the sport of hockey in Ontario. As a former number one overall draft pick, he’s already been subject to an onslaught of cameras and microphones in his face.
In the playoffs, when the pressure is on, Stamkos has performed admirably. When the Lightning made a run at the Cup in 2015, Stamkos notched 18 points (7 goals, 11 assists) in 26 games. The pressure will be on in Toronto, every game. Stamkos has already proven he can handle the pressure.
11 Shouldn't - Most Recent Scoring Pace
Stamkos has been a point-per-game scorer, although he hasn't scored at quite that clip recently. For three consecutive seasons, beginning with 2009-10, Stamkos breached the 90-point barrier; pretty impressive stuff in today's game. In the lockout shortened season of 2012-13, he also scored more than a point-per-game. His 72 points in 2014-15 and his 64 points this past season were under his usual average per-game. He hasn’t led the NHL in goals since 2011-12, when he scored 60. Will he score goals again like he did in previous seasons, when he was leading the league? Time will tell.
10 Should - Leadership
Stamkos took on the mantle of team leader during the playoffs in 2015. He learned when his team needed an emotional boost, and how to give that lift. Stamkos has the experience of being a team captain, guiding his team both on and off the ice. While his leadership with the skates on may have been evident for all to see, his contributions to his team while injured recently were not as visible. Through his own trials, he didn’t remain in a bubble. He was watching the games and talking to his teammates when he thought he could be of help. That’s the type of leadership which Toronto could surely use.
9 Shouldn't - Fit and Chemistry
Will Steven Stamkos fit in with the Toronto Maple Leafs lineup? How will Stamkos perform along with James van Riemsdyk? There is a chance, if the Maple Leafs acquired Stamkos, that he might not fit perfectly, on the ice, with his wingers. Now, Stamkos could be the type of player that fits in with any skater on his wing. That’s not guaranteed though. He has been able to go through different line combinations in Tampa Bay and find success. Who will be the Robin to Stamkos’ Batman, in Toronto? James van Riemsdyk is the likely candidate, who could help advance Stamkos’ opportunities with the Maple Leafs. They haven’t played together before though, so we won’t know how it’ll work out until it happens.
8 Should - Merchandising
The Maple Leafs would most certainly sell more merchandise if Steven Stamkos was a member of the team. First, you’d get the Stamkos jerseys that would sell like wildfire. Then the t-shirts with Stamkos’ name on the back. Hockey fans in general would be more likely to wear Maple Leafs attire just because one of the best players in the world was now playing for the team. You could even see non-hockey fans wearing a Stamkos jersey with the Maple Leaf crest on front, couldn’t you? Pop stars and rock stars, maybe? I’m not a Maple Leaf fan and I might even buy a Stamkos jersey if he played for Toronto.
7 Shouldn't - Opportunity Cost
This goes in line with reason number 8. Who are the other players out there that the Toronto Maple Leafs might want to sign, which they couldn’t afford to, if they put all their money into Stamkos? Kyle Okposo might be a good fit on the right wing for Toronto, playing along with Nazem Kadri and James van Riemsdyk. Okposo would be out of the question if Toronto spent the money, and cap space, on Stamkos' likely contract. Loui Eriksson scored just six goals less than Stamkos this year. Toronto might be able to afford both Eriksson and Okposo, in lieu of Stamkos if they had to shell out $10 million a year for the star centerman.
6 Should - Tutelage of Auston Matthews
The Maple Leafs will be selecting Auston Matthews with the first overall pick in the 2016 NHL draft. No ifs, ands or buts about it. Matthews just happens to be a centerman. Who better to tutor Matthews in the intricacies of playing the pivot position in the NHL but Steven Stamkos? The Leafs have some quality centers, but none with the combination of skill, experience and leadership which Stamkos would bring. If you wanted to take some of the pressure off of Matthews, in coming to the hotbed of professional hockey, signing Steven Stamkos would be one way to do it.
5 Shouldn't - To Win The Cup
An argument can be made for signing Stamkos to bring a Stanley Cup to Toronto. Let's look at the flip side of that coin though. The Maple Leafs might not win a Stanley Cup if they had to spend $10 million on a contract for one player, it’s all about the team. How often does one player really cause a tipping point in order to earn a championship for a team? If the greatest hockey player in the history of the game, Wayne Gretzky, didn’t bring the Los Angeles Kings a Stanley Cup by himself, should we expect that Steven Stamkos alone, albeit one of the greatest players in the game today, will bring one by himself to Toronto? Do the Maple Leafs have all the other pieces in place, and they are just waiting on one great player to complete the puzzle that leads to a Stanley Cup? If the Leafs can assemble all the other pieces as well, particularly considering the salary cap, then they should make the attempt. If not...focus on the full puzzle.
4 Should - To Win The Cup
The Toronto Maple Leafs are in a rebuild. That much is well known. They jettisoned their captain earlier in 2016 for salary cap reasons by trading defenseman Dion Phaneuf to the Ottawa Senators. They have been stockpiling draft picks through some smaller trades as well. Now, they have the number one overall draft pick after finishing last in the NHL standings and “winning” the draft lottery.
A Stanley Cup won’t be hoisted by Toronto next season. But it doesn’t need to happen that far off. Bringing Steven Stamkos to Toronto in order to help “coach” some of the younger, up-and-coming players would help expedite their growth and the success of the team as a whole. Stamkos has the skill, on and off the ice, to help a team win the Stanley Cup. Why shouldn't it be Toronto?
3 Shouldn't - To Make Leafs Fans Happy…..Long Term
Yes, signing Steven Stamkos will cause a short period of euphoria among Maple Leafs fans. They’ll also enjoy seeing him score 30, 40 or more goals a season. But how will Toronto fans feel if the team doesn’t make the playoffs for five more seasons? And if they don’t have the cap space to be able to sign the players they need, on offense and defense, to make a whole, complete, competitive team? Rather than going for the big fish, Toronto could go for a few medium-sized fish, and adjust their strategy in a much more agile way, if they need to in the future.
2 Should - To Make Leafs Fans Happy!
Regardless of what happens after Steven Stamkos gets to Toronto, just getting him to the city will make Maple Leafs fans ecstatic. The excitement around Stamkos becoming a Maple Leaf will border on the elation of winning a playoff round. Toronto has been waiting for a savior on the ice. They’ve landed the team management they wanted in Brendan Shanahan and Lou Lamoriello. The head coach they sought is now behind the bench in Mike Babcock. Now it’s time for them to land the player they need and want in Steven Stamkos. Make Stamkos a Maple Leaf and you make Toronto fans happy. Bring Steven home!
1 Shouldn't - To Afford A Star Goaltender Under The Cap
Both Ben Bishop and Ryan Miller are set to become free agents after next season. Would the Leafs do better, over the long haul, to solidify their net? The goaltender position is one you absolutely must get right. Jonathan Bernier has been good in net for Toronto recently. The Maple Leafs might want to make a big splash and go for Ben Bishop though. Bishop led the NHL with a 2.06 GAA in 2015-16. Over the long run, which player would provide the most value to the team as a whole? A first-line star center in Stamkos, or a brick-wall goaltender like Bishop who is on-ice for nearly 60 minutes in 60 or more games a season?