The Stanley Cup Premium

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As per Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the Tampa Bay Lightning have offered forward Steven Stamkos an 8 year deal worth a total of $68 million. 

Here’s the link.

For those of you (like myself) who cannot math, that is an $8.5 million average and cap hit. The outcry around the league from pundits and others (see the above link) is that this is certainly not enough for Stamkos. Not after Anze Kopitar received an 8 year, $80 million extension! Not after Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane received twin 8 year, $84 million deals! Certainly not.

Well, I disagree.

My point is not a complicated one.

When you’re buying UFA years in a contract (which each contract referred to above involves) you begin to pay for what someone has done, more than what they are going to do. UFA years are expensive – the player is famous, accomplished, and expecting to be recompensed handsomely for his achievements.

All well and good – I’m not here to argue that this is wrong or shouldn’t be happening or yadda, yadda, yadda.

What I do dispute is that Stamkos’ achievements put him in the company of Kopitar et al., in one single, hugely important, hugely lucrative category.

Stanley Cups.

Kane and Toews – 3 cups in the last 6 years.

Kopitar – 2 cups in the last 4 years.

They are now being paid for team success and for the success they have brought the franchise. Stamkos, though arguably the best offensive talent of the 4, is lacking one important distinction.

Stanley Cup Champion.

That’s the holdup, folks. We can argue about whether that’s good management or not, but it’s the way things have been working in the NHL for a while now. Had the Bolts gotten the job done last post-season against the ‘Hawks, we’re probably talking about the huge contract extension Stamkos signed in the summer, a contract that would likely have started with a 1 and ended with 7 0’s or somewhere around there.

But as it stands today, those 8 figure contracts are being handed out only to the best of the very, very best, as determined by Stanley Cup victories. The Blackhawks and the Kings boast possibly two of the most well constructed rosters since the dynastic days of the Edmonton Oilers (the late 90’s Red Wings were incredible too though). The contracts handed out to their best players represent exceptional circumstances, not the norm. They have set the contractual standard, not for elite players, but for elite players who lead their team to Stanley Cups.

Stamkos, while many things, is not one of those. If he wants to get a deal done in Tampa Bay, he has two options:

  1. Sign now, for around $9M/season.
  2. Hope for a playoff run, a Stanley Cup, and sign immediately for $10M/season.

Otherwise, it’s going to be open season and UFA 2016 will be one that alters two franchises. For sure, the Tampa Bay Lightning. The other? We’ll have to wait and find out.

 

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