Unless he and the Tampa Bay Lightning can come to terms on a contract extension in the next 72 or so hours, Steven Stamkos will become perhaps the most highly sought-after unrestricted free agent in NHL history at noon ET Friday.
More than a half-dozen teams are rumored to have interest in Stamkos, including the Boston Bruins, who are in need of a roster upgrade after missing the playoffs in each of the last two seasons.
Whether signing Stamkos to the type of massive deal he’ll command would be in the Bruins’ best interest certainly is debatable, especially since their greatest deficiencies lie on the blue line, not up front. But let’s imagine for a second the B’s are dead set on landing Stamkos. How would general manager Don Sweeney sell the 26-year-old centerman on leaving the team that drafted him, spurning his hometown of Toronto and signing with Boston?
Here are three potential selling points, plus a counterargument for each:
1) Boston loves its hockey
Tampa Bay is a better hockey market than it gets credit for, but it has nothing on an Original Six city like Boston. Succeed here, and Stamkos would become a legend in the eyes of one of the most passionate fan bases in all of sports.
But … the same can be said for Detroit, which appears ready to pursue Stamkos after shedding Pavel Datsyuk’s contract, and for Toronto.
2) Bergeron & Co.
The Bruins’ defense needs some serious retooling, but their forward group is solid, albeit a bit top-heavy. Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci form one of the best 1-2 center duos in the NHL, and winger Brad Marchand is coming off a career season. Boston ranked fifth in the league in scoring this past season and seventh in power-play percentage despite having a PP unit that disappeared for long stretches late in the season.
Adding Stamkos would make the B’s absolutely lethal down the middle — which could, in turn, help boost production from some of their underachieving wingers — and also would give them the flexibility to package a center in a deal for some blue-line help if they so choose.
The Bruins also have greater stability in net with Tuukka Rask than most of their fellow Stamkos suitors.
But … Tampa Bay has a fantastic supporting cast, and Detroit’s is enticing, too. Buffalo has Jack Eichel. Toronto has Auston Matthews. The Bruins are closer to contending for a Stanley Cup than the Sabres and Maple Leafs are, but both of those teams soon could surpass them soon if some of their promising young guns turn into legitimate stars.
3) The money
Assuming the Bruins do not re-sign winger Loui Eriksson this summer, they should have the salary cap space to afford Stamkos and still be able to address some of their other needs. And, as Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times detailed Monday in an interesting breakdown, Massachusetts tax laws would make a Bruins contract worth slightly more in net income than an identical one in many other competing cities.
For example, Stamkos would pocket $36,304,373 of a seven-year, $70 million deal with Boston, compared to $36,102,878 in Detroit, $35,185,304 in Buffalo, $33,550,706 in New York and $29,729,000 in Toronto, according to Smith’s data.
But … those are very minor fluctuations, particularly among the American cities, and if taxes are that high on Stamkos’ priority list, he’d be better off staying in Florida.
Thumbnail photo via Aaron Doster/USA TODAY Sports Images