Stamkos Stays Put
And now you see why I don't think most Leafs fans don't have brains. Well, all the Leafs writers here seem to be smart enough to figure out the inevitable was going to happen. They may have thought about it, and while a lot of teams probably did, it just wasn't going to happen.
Which leads us to today. Steven Stamkos is a Tampa Bay Lightning for another 5 years. He is making a little less than captain Vincent Lecavalier's $7.7 million salary at $7.5 per year, but I take this as a perfect contract. The term is enough that Stamkos will be around in his prime, and GM Steve Yzerman can build around him.
As I read the Toronto Star up at my cottage getaway (which is where I wrote this), I saw some quotes that made me chuckle, and in a way made me feel for those suffering Leafs fans. Stamkos said he new the rumours were getting out off hand when he saw that ridiculous photoshopped image of himself in a Leafs jersey (it was actually Phil Kessel's with the 81 turned into a 91). It was a believable picture, given that Stamkos had to double check he didn't meet Brain Burke and sign a deal.
To make things even better for Tampa fans, they have a GM that knows what he's doing. Yzerman was quiet throughout the whole process, and when the deal was signed, then he spoke. The quote that made it for me was Stevie saying, "We were going to match any deal anyway." Kind of like I said before.
So here's where we stand; Stamkos is back in a Bolts uniform, albeit a new blue and white Leafish-looking one (if Leafs fans squint they can pretend he is in Toronto), and Tampa is now in the running for a Cup for another 5 years at least. With the right pieces of the puzzle, Tampa can be a force to be reckoned with. A fresh GM, a smart coach and an owner that is willing to win will help. Having players buy into the franchises goals also helps. Yzerman gave Stamkos the 'take less to win' speech, which might have been a gamble, but Stamkos bought in. He could have taken the farm and got the league maximum, but $7.5 is a discount. Even though it is a huge number (tied for 7th in top player salary league-wide), Tampa fans can exhale. They really never should have inhaled.
Gone are the days of mediocrity in southern Florida. The supporting pillars are rock solid and won't be washed away for a long time.