Just days after his team fell short of capturing the second Stanley Cup in franchise history, Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman made it clear that signing superstar forward Steven Stamkos to a long-term extension was his “No. 1 priority” for the off-season.
“We said in September  that we’d sit down at the end of the year and get that done, and that’s my intention,” Yzerman said in June. “We’ve got a good team. He’s our captain, and it’s our intention to get him signed to a long-term deal.”
But here we are, two months later, and not only is there no deal in place but there haven’t been substantial negotiations yet between the team and Stamkos’s agent.
But is it time to panic yet? Hardly. Yzerman has proved to be a quiet and deliberate manager, and with camp still three weeks away he has time to get this done. Clearly there’s more to this than simply looking at other recent extensions like the eight-year, $84 million deals that were given to Chicago’s Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane or Jakub Voracek’s eight-year, $66 million agreement with Philadelphia and figuring out where Stamkos slots in.
A 25-year-old with 276 NHL goals already on his résumé deserves to be at or near the top of that scale—eight years, $80 million. At least.
But managing a young, successful team like the Lightning means that Yzerman has more than one ball in the air. Top-six forwards Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn will be RFAs next summer. No. 1 defenseman Victor Hedman will be eligible for unrestricted free agency the year after that. So it’s not just a matter of writing Stamkos an oversized check. Yzerman has to figure out which members of his current group will best maintain the team’s status as a Cup contender ... and which he’s most willing to sacrifice in order to keep a player like Stamkos happily on board.
Yzerman deserves to take all the time he needs to make that call. That said, the uncertainty about Stamkos’s status is bound to be a distraction to this team if it lingers into camp, or worse, the regular season. The GM knows first hand what kind of effect that can have on both the player and the franchise.
There’s still time to ensure that doesn’t become a problem.
But not much.
• With the possibility of advertising being slapped on NHL game jerseys dominating the headlines this week, much of the furor has surrounded whether or not it should be allowed and what form it might take. But there are a number of other interesting angles to the story. For instance, who would negotiate the deals? The league or individual teams? One team executive told SI.com said that if it happens (and he’s not entirely convinced that it will, despite the speculation) then it likely would be a combination of both. For example, a league sponsor like Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Honda or EA Sports might be able to negotiate a placement on all 30 team jerseys.
The league might also sell event-specific opportunities. For example, Bridgestone Tires already is a title sponsor of the Winter Classic and it might wish to purchase placement on both teams for that game rather than the entire season. Playoffs could also be negotiated separately. And there could be player-specific deals as well. For instance, an advertiser might want to purchase space on the jerseys of the leading scorer of each team. And it might not be just the jersey for sale. In Finland, the top scorer on each team wears a golden helmet. Hypothetically, the league could sell a similar concept to, say, McDonald’s as part of a league-wide program.
Meanwhile, teams would be allowed a certain number of spaces to sell to local or national partners on their own. That would be critical because the demand for space on the sweaters of a popular, well-supported club like Chicago, Toronto or Montreal would be significantly higher than for, say, Carolina or Florida. Owners would demand that chance to maximize their revenue.
Another issue: What standards would apply for the types of advertisers that would be accepted? The American Airlines Center in Dallas, for example, is plastered with ads for gentlemen’s clubs. While their presentation is certainly within the bounds of good taste, these businesses have their share of vocal opposition. Would they be allowed to purchase space on a jersey as well?
And what would happen if a player had a personal endorsement that conflicted with an advertiser selected by his team or the league? Sidney Crosby, for example, has a deal with Gatorade. Would a league deal with Powerade supercede that? Probably, but it’s a good bet that the Players’ Association would take issue with that. While they’d benefit from jersey ad sales—the players get 50 cents of every dollar of Hockey-Related Revenue—they’d likely look to protect the rights of individual players to maximize their own revenue potential away from the ice. It’s likely then that this might require some negotiation at the collective bargaining level to arrive at an amenable solution.
It seems inevitable that jersey ads are coming to the NHL, but there are many hurdles to cross before that first patch is sewn on.
GALLERY: Ads We'd Like to See on NHL Jerseys
• In the wake of Winnipeg winger Blake Wheeler denouncing the concept of jersey ads, Dallas forward Tyler Seguin took a more pragmatic approach. “It’s a fine line,” he said. “I know it’s going to bring in a little more revenue ... I’m not really with it or against it ... Personally, I’m going to do my best no matter what I’m wearing.”
• You know it’s been a slow few weeks for hockey when there’s been more action on the police blotter than the transaction wire. The latest to run afoul of the law: Wild assistant coach Darryl Sydor, who was arrested at 5:15 Thursday afternoon in Fridley, Minnesota on suspicion of driving drunk. A police spokesman said Sydor’s blood alcohol level was 0.30%, which is nearly four times the state’s limit of 0.08%.
While no one was injured, the story still has a tragic side. Sydor was driving his 12-year-son to his hockey game when he was stopped. As a result, he’s expected to appear in court Friday on both drunk driving and child endangerment charges.
The 43-year-old Sydor played 18 seasons in the NHL and has been an assistant with the Wild since 2010.
• Interesting to see a couple of widely varying analyses of Boston’s prospect depth during the past couple of days. One, published on NHL.com, listed Danton Heinen, as the team’s most promising young player. Another on ESPN didn’t even mention the University of Denver forward among their top 10.
Don’t be surprised if Matt Kalman, writing on NHL.com, is proved to be correct. Heinen, a fourth-round flyer in the 2014 draft, was deemed too small by some teams, but even if his listed stats (6' 1", 185 pounds) are exaggerated, he’s hardly a pixie out there. And as players like Tyler Johnson and Johnny Gaudreau have proved, size only becomes an issue if the player allows it.
Boston’s faith in Kalman looked prescient when the 20-year-old led the Pioneers with 45 points and finished third among all NCAA freshmen in scoring last season, trailing only Jack Eichel and Dylan Larkin. Unlike those first rounders, Heinen’s dark-horse status will allow him the luxury of developing at a slower pace and without the burden of great expectations. When he does make the jump, possibly as soon as 2016-17, he’ll make a quick impression with his hands and his hockey sense. Add in a high compete level and Heinen looks like a rare draft steal for the B’s.
• This first-person piece from Martin St. Louis is as emotional and honest as anything you’re likely to read this month. Even Bolts fans might love him again after this.
• A member of the Stanley Cup-winning Chicago Blackhawks has spent his summer helping other NHL players make an often-difficult transition to post-playing life.
• That young goalie looks pretty good out there. What’s his name again? Oh yeah, Sidney Crosby.
• If a hockey game was all that stood between our world and alien domination, Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin knows who his first choice for the team would be: Vladimir Putin. Yep, Putin. Any chance we could have Bugs Bunny pick our side?
• Here’s a look at a quiet method the Toronto Maple Leafs are using to maximize their organizational depth and talent.
• This analytical look at how passing impacts shooting percentage is both intensive and intriguing from a statistical perspective, but as with many similar projects it leaves me wondering if there is a real-life application. Will players really start looking for one extra pass because it slightly increases shooting percentage? Not sure the game works that way.
• This newspaper report gushes over a million-dollar find of 1990s sports cards in an abandoned building in Detroit. Judging by what’s shown in these photos, I'm thinking that value estimate might be just a little bit high.