Call him the NHL’s Kevin Durant.
As NBA teams clamor to make their pitches to the Oklahoma City Thunder forward and soon-to-be free agent, NHL teams are expected to do the same for Tampa Bay Lightning superstar Steven Stamkos.
NHL free agency begins July 1, but Saturday marked the beginning of the speaking window during which teams can openly reach out to pending unrestricted free agents. That includes Stamkos, one of the league’s premier offensive talents and arguably the best player on the open market.
As such, several teams likely will pursue the 26-year-old center. So, which clubs have been tied to Stamkos already? Here’s a roundup of the All-Star’s possible destinations.
Sabres general manager Tim Murray was pretty transparent in his team’s interest in Stamkos, telling reporters recently that Buffalo will “chase the big fish.” The Sabres haven’t made the playoffs since 2011 and would love to make a big splash by netting Stamkos.
Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings cleared out some cap space by unloading Pavel Datsyuk’s contract, giving them the resources to make a run at Stamkos. According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, Detroit plans to do just that.
This one is obvious, as Canucks GM Jim Benning made his interest in Stamkos a little too well-known and faces tampering charges as a result. Regardless of what penalty the league assesses Vancouver, it will be in the mix for Stamkos’ services.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs just drafted a center in Auston Matthews with the No. 1 overall pick and might not be willing to go all-in on a bidding war for Stamkos. But Toronto is Stamkos’ hometown, which is enough to make the Leafs a legitimate suitor for the four-time All-Star.
After Boston missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons, Don Sweeney said recently the Bruins will make “all the calls” in free agency. You’d better believe that includes Stamkos.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Stamkos’ current team can’t be counted out, and GM Steve Yzerman confirmed the Lightning will at least attempt to re-sign their star center. But if the price gets too high, there’s a good chance Stamkos winds up elsewhere.
Thumbnail photo via Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports Images