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Steven Stamkos sweepstakes: Buffalo Sabres are chasing ‘big fish’

BUFFALO, NY – NHL teams had their first chance to speak with the agents for prized free agent Steven Stamkos after the first day of the NHL Draft. (Well, legally, right Vancouver?

So who's in the Stamkos Sweepstakes?

The Buffalo Sabres have declared their intention to go after him if the star center doesn’t resign with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“The next conversation I have with [Stamkos’ agents], because we’re allowed to now, is to just ask if Steven is going to be available on July 1 and would he have an interest in Buffalo,” said GM Tim Murray. “I plan to. I think I plan to.”

Murray was more than forthright about why he felt the Sabres were in a position to “chase the big fish” this offseason. Obviously, with billionaire Terry Pegula’s financial blessing, the Sabres can offer Stamkos as much money as any other NHL suitor can. What the Sabres also offer, however, is the chance to play and live near his native Ontario while playing on a team slightly closer to contention than, say, the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“I think there’s going to be a lot of equals as far as money. There won’t be a lot of equals as far as geography,” he said.

Murray also indicated that if the Sabres were to acquire Stamkos, they would use him at his natural position at center. Which is interesting, as the Sabres have Jack Eichel and Ryan O’Reilly up the middle and Sam Reinhart, a natural center, playing wing. In theory, Stamkos, Eichel and O’Reilly would be the kind of three-line talent spread that we just saw the Pittsburgh Penguins win a Stanley Cup by utilizing.

Of course, it all comes down to whether Stamkos likes Buffalo. “I have no sense, no,” said Murray.

Other teams are lining up. The Detroit Red Wings traded away Pavel Datsyuk’s $7.5 million cap hit to the Arizona Coyotes on Friday night, opening up the space to take a run at Stamkos – needing an offensive star, opening up a new arena in next year. TSN reported Detroit may offer the max of seven years at $10 million annually. 

GM Don Sweeney of the Boston Bruins said he planned on inquiring about Stamkos, as they’re flush with cap space.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are still on a high from drafting Auston Matthews, but have long been considered a contender for Stamkos due to finances and geography.

The Vancouver Canucks, meanwhile, haven’t reached out to the Stamkos camp yet, although GM Jim Benning said on the radio this week prior to the draft that “we’re going to pick up the phone and talk to his agent. We’d like to add one impact player to our group.” (He’s expected to be fined for tampering on Monday by the NHL.)

Oh, then there’s this team in Tampa.

The one with whom Stamkos currently plays.

The Tampa Bay Times reports that the Lightning have offered Stamkos an extension of eight years with annual value of between $8.75-8.5 million.

GM Steve Yzerman was asked about the negotiations.

“I won’t elaborate on it. We’re both very clear on our positions,” he said. “I have no control over what other teams do.”

Has he ruled out Stamkos returning to the Lightning?

“I haven’t ruled anything out just yet,” he said.

Keep this in mind: The Tampa Bay Lightning are the only team that can sign Stamkos to an eight-year deal. The most another team could give him would be seven years. The potential for a sign-and-trade is there, if the details could be worked out with another team.

As we’ve said from the start of the season: We’ve heard that geography is important to Stamkos, as his family is in Ontario. We’ve heard the money, and maximizing it, is important. We’ve heard the ability to win a Stanley Cup with his team is important, as is the chance to play his natural position at center -- something that led to friction in Tampa in recent years. 

It’s not coincidence, then, that the Sabres and Red Wings are out front in the Stamkos sweepstakes early. They can offer all of that -- well, save for the distance between both teams and a championship. But in theory, Stamkos brings them closer. 

The ultimate decision is with the player, and it’s the biggest mystery in hockey right now. 

Who will win the Stamkos Sweepstakes? 

Additional reporting by Josh Cooper.


Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.



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