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Why Stamkos Could Sign With Red Wings . . . And Why He Won’t

Tampa Bay center becomes a UFA on July 1



Steven Stamkos, Lightning
Steven Stamkos has been a Red Wings killer throughout his NHL career.

Steven Stamkos certainly knows all about the Detroit Red Wings, and the Red Wings know him well. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean either side will be looking to take the relationship to the next level.

Tampa Bay Lightning center Stamkos is slated to become an unrestriected free agent on July 1. He figures to be the most coveted player among this year’s crop of UFAs. He’d also be an ideal fit on a Red Wings team in desperate need of a No. 2 center.

Would the Red Wings want to add Stamkos? Possibly. Is Stamkos likely to consider Detroit as a potential destination? Perhaps.

There are mitigating factors on both sides of this equation that could lead to it adding up, or to the chance of it ever happening being completely scuttled.

Let’s look at all the variables in a potential Stamkos-Red Wings combination.

Stamkos A Red Wings Killer

There are few NHL teams that Stamkos has enjoyed playing against more than Detroit. In 42 career regular-season games against the Red Wings, he’s been good for 23 goals and 42 points. Stamkos has twice put the Wings out of the playoffs.

As mentioned above, Detroit is in need of a center to play in their top six. When No. 1 center and captain Dylan Larkin went out with a late-season injury, the Red Wings would tumble into a seven-game losing skid that scuttled their dreams of playoff hockey.

Detroit GM Steve Yzerman was flummoxed by how easily the team went off the rails without Larkin’s presence in the lineup.

“We missed the offensive production when he was out of the lineup,” Yzerman said. “We need another centerman, or another impact forward at a different position to offset the loss of the offensive production.”

Yzerman Knows Stamkos

Other than Lightning GM Julien BriseBois, no NHL GM is as familiar to or with Stamkos than Yzerman. He was the Tampa Bay GM the last time Stamkos was a UFA in 2016, and got him to stay with the Lightning against all odds. Could he work that magic touch again and convince Stamkos how vital he’d be in the Detroit rebuild?

Adding a center of Stamkos’ ilk would slot everyone into the lineup correctly. J.T. Compher would drop into the third-line center role his skills are best suited for. Andrew Copp could slide over to the wing. Stamkos could also be the center needed to get Alex DeBrincat to become a more consistent scorer.

Can Red Wings Afford Stamkos?

Here’s the first real concern facing the Red Wings in any Stamkos to Detroit scenario. Will there be enough money available to pay Stamkos with all of the other pacts on the table for Yzerman to sort out this summer?

First and foremost, the Detroit GM must get the names of restricted free agents Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider on new contracts. He doesn’t know for certain what that’s going to cost him and likely won’t have that answer in hand before July 1, when he’d need to be moving on Stamkos.

Yzerman has already suggested he’d like to find a way to keep UFA defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere in the fold. There’s also uncertainty as to what level of vigor the Wings will be pursuing UFA forward Patrick Kane. Center Joe Veleno is an RFA who is arbitration eligible.

To make Stamkos fit into this picture, Yzerman would likely be required to move one or two contracts off of his team’s ledger. Will there be takers willing to help make this happen?

Does Stamkos Want To Come To Detroit?

This is the other very relevant question in this whole scenario. No one knows for certain which way Stamkos is leaning. Is Detroit even on his radar?

At 34, he’s likely going to be seeking a team that can win it all sooner rather than later. Are the Red Wings that team?

Then again, who’s to say that he’s even leaving Tampa Bay? It was supposed to be a foregone conclusion that he was done there in 2016, the last time Stamkos was heading to UFA status. Instead, he wound up inking an eight-year deal worth $68 million to stay with the Lightning.

Could the Lightning strike twice and keep Stamkos from entering the open market? That’s entirely possible.